Archive for November, 2015

REFLECTION: The Bishop and his sheep…

Friday, November 27th, 2015

I so appreciate the way God leads us.   I’m not sure how He does it, but our Father always sends the right person to guide me along. God’s answer doesn’t necessarily come immediately.  At times He lets us squirm and wiggle here and there until we finally realize that He wants us to sit at His feet for a while.  More often than not, my squirming and wiggling continues there, but I am more at peace knowing that He is still in control and I don’t have to do anything without His direction, guidance and strength.

I was briefly introduced to Canon Law last night and my fingers have already begun researching. This morning, I found a gem!  The article, Are they really Catholic – Part 2 ( http://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2007/10/18/are-they-really-catholic-part-ii/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-2), spoke directly to my spirit.  Of late I have been struggling to discern if certain teachers are truly Catholic.  They claim to be, but I doubt whether they truly embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The last paragraph of the article speaks volumes…”Ultimately, the bishop is responsible for the spiritual well-being of the Catholics who reside in his territory.  He consequently not only has the right, but also the responsibility to ensure that questionable clergy do not enter his territory to minister to the people of his diocese.  And we lay-Catholics in turn have the obligation in turn to avoid attending those churches which we know are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.”

I have no doubt some disagree with this…  However, if one viewed the bishop as the shepherd who ensures that his sheep remain Catholic, one would appreciate the significance of this role.

Not too long ago, a picture of sheep in a corral came to mind.  I believe it pertains to John 10:9-11   I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.   “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

At the end of the day, the shepherds in the olden days would build a corral around where the sheep could graze safely at night.  There is only one entrance where a shepherd normally stays to guard the sheep.  When the sheep hear rustling around the boundaries of the corral, they become edgy and nervous because they know there is danger lurking.  However, the sheep have learned that those who come through the gate are safe.

The bishop is the shepherd of the flock in his territory.  He can only protect his flock if his sheep follow the rules set up to protect them.  There are times, perhaps out of excitement and over sight,that  the sheep sneak in guests over the corral walls so as to “teach” and mingle with them.  It is obvious that the shepherd cannot protect the sheep in these circumstances.

A clergy friend, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote…

“The Church’s canon law is simple and logical on the matter of who can speak in a diocese. 
All priests know that they need faculties (permission) from the local bishop to carry on any preaching or teaching ministry. In a similar way, a lay speaker must have the permission of the bishop to speak in the diocese. 
The pastor of the parish is the person responsible for obtaining such faculties and permission. He can only do so by presenting a letter of suitability from the priest’s superior – either his bishop or religious superior; in the case of a lay person it would be the bishop of the diocese where he or she belongs. 
These protocols are universal and known to all pastors, who represent the bishop in their parishes and help him oversee the teaching of the faith. Any individual who recommends a speaker must approach the pastor, who is the one to ask the bishop for permission to invite the priest or lay person from outside the diocese. These procedures ensure that people are protected from “freelancers” who may not be qualified to teach in matters of faith and morals. 

What I wrote summarizes what the Church’s discipline requires of her pastors for the good of souls.”

May these insights help each those who desire to walk the Catholic journey.

God bless,

Melissa – November 27, 2015

REFLECTION: The trial… (please don’t shoot the messenger)

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

There is not one who lives his or her life without tests and trials.  In fact, our journey here on earth is speckled with them.   There is not one religious faith that will keep these tests and trials at bay, however, I believe that the Christian faith gives the individual an advantage over others.

In His public life, Jesus was tested and tried in every direction.  One would imagine that God, being the creator…all powerful and knowing, would not have a single problem or He would be able to dodge all the difficulties in the world  However, the Gospel clearly shows that, although He was both truly God and truly man, Jesus faced each test and trial that came His way.  Triumphantly!

If I were Jesus, I would have opted to be exempted from the testings and trials, but I am not Jesus.  Jesus chose to lower himself to become one of the created so He would be able to “enter into the very experience and reality of who we are”.  In essence, Jesus became man so He could relate to us and so we, in turn, would realize and grasp the fact that He truly understands what we are going through.

Jesus is not a God who sits on His throne, reigning from a pedestal far above those He created.  In fact, although mankind has repeatedly turned its back on God throughout history, God hasn’t given up and He continues to pursue each of us individually.  Jesus is a God who dwells among His people.   Although we don’t see Him or sense His presence, His spirit is beside each of us at every moment.  How He does it is a mystery, but it is His truth and our truth, if we choose to embrace it.

Last week and the early part of this week has been one enormous trial.  Red flags were already visible in the middle of the week and I am so thankful God had drawn me into continuous prayer.  We talked, or should I say, I mostly begged Him to show me the way.  For a while there, I thought I was discerning incorrectly, and so I asked Him to examine my blind spots to see if they have been causing me to stumble.  Interestingly enough, God spoke, but not audibly.  Instead, He spoke through His Word (the Bible) and through the words of others…even if they were recorded as notes in a notebook.

Although I continued to pray fervently, I entered the event with caution.  The presentation went well and I raised my hand when the audience was asked who was happy they had come.  Lunch was great, even when we were originally told that nothing would be provided.  And then the clip was shown.

I freaked, not expecting anything of such content to be shown… and boy did I pray.  I saw a few stragglers come in in the midst of the viewing and I ran to coax them to leave and to return at a later time.   As I try to recall what had happened, I repeatedly envision myself in a room that had burst into flames and I was running around, attempting to coax a few to stay away.  I knew I couldn’t encourage others to leave because I expected them to use their own discretion.  I now wonder why I didn’t leave.

In response to what was shown, I had immediately written, attempting to correct the error that was made.  I had thought I was bringing consolation to those who had freaked similarly to the way I did, but instead, I was immediately “shot down” by an acquaintance.  I was surprised because we had briefly discussed the event prior to my departure and we had both agreed that the children should not have been there.  To my surprise, this one had written…” we should get off our high-horses, have a look at our own selves instead, and provide support and encouragement rather of continually fault-finding.”

I was horrified and terribly hurt.  I asked God why, when what I was doing was attempting to correct the wrong.  I had spent hours on end researching to verify my stand and I found endless articles supporting it.  In spite of the verification, my spirit was shattered and I continued to question my purpose.

And then God showed up through other individuals.  Just when I lost all hope, a call came my way and the caller had agreed that caution had to be taken.  A few hours later, after sharing snippits of my grief, another consoled me by saying that “people will always attack when you are doing God’s work”.  Perhaps it was by God’s grace, but at that very moment, those words brought life back into my being.

Today, while I was writing two of what I sensed God telling us to do, I was reminded of an article I had sent previously.  I looked for the article because I wanted to find the scripture verse, only to realize after the fact that what I had personally written and what I was doing was echoed by another who had penned an article 3 years earlier.

Is God real?  Does He truly help us in times of difficulty?  May this reflection be a living testimony of His very presence and guidance in my life.

May You, ALONE, receive all the glory Lord!

God bless,

Melissa – November 11, 2015

p.s. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvY-66tmsfk

For You Alone (Don Harris)

You are the peace that guards my heart
My help in time of need
You are the hope that leads me on
And brings me to my knees
For there I find You waiting
And there I find relief
So with all my heart I’ll worship
And unto You I’ll sing

Chorus
For You alone deserve all glory
For You alone deserve all praise
Father we worship and adore You
Father we long to see Your face
For You alone deserve all glory
For You alone deserve all praise
Father we love You
And we worship You this day

 

Ending
Father we love You
And we worship You this day
Father we love You
And we worship You this day

Oh yes, Lord, we love You
You are so Holy, You are my King
I love You Lord
Oh yes, God, You are my refuge
Oh I love You Father, You are my strength
And I long to seek Your face
Oh thank You Father

Lord we worship You this day
Oh thank You, Jesus
Thank You Father

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTION:  My story in His story (The story behind “the invitation sent with hesitation”…)

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

 

I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament at noon today.  I sat with my eyes closed, asking God what I should do.  The quandary wasn’t a big one and yet I knew there was a decision I had to make.  I could easily not do anything and yet I wondered if my lack of action would prevent others from receiving the healing they yearned for.  As I continued to sit and wait, I sensed there was a message for me in the Bible study we had yesterday.  I had brought my study binder and Bible along, sensing they would come in handy.

Are you familiar with the story of Saul and Ananias in Acts 9?  Saul (who was later called Paul) was a Pharisee who ruthlessly killed the disciples of Jesus.  On his way to Damascus, he had a miraculous encounter with Jesus.  A light flashed suddenly from heaven above him and as he fell to the ground, he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  The men who travelled with him heard the voice but saw no one.  When Saul rose, he realized he could not see.  His companions led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.

I opened my Bible to that chapter and continued reading.  “Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias.  The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias”, and he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  And the Lord said to him “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias  come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain sight.”  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much even he has done to your saints at Jerusalem, and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and the kings and sons of Israel.”  Acts 9:1-15

Did you notice that Ananias didn’t want to meet Saul, but God told him Saul was a chosen instrument of his to carry His name?

I asked God if I was Ananias in this circumstance.  He reminded me of the e-mail a friend had written the day before, “Do not be judgemental…You know how I need you to invite the people.   Please send the invitation of the little poster… Please send it.  I will be grateful to you all my life.”  I smiled as I recalled the endearing and heartfelt plea of my friend.

As I browsed through my Bible study notes, I could hear Jeff Cavins ask, “Do we allow others to speak to our spiritual blindness?  What hurdles do we need to work through to allow God to use us?  How does this apply to my life?  God is speaking to Saul’s blindness.  Conversion takes place in areas where we don’t see.  Has God spoken to you in your blindness?  We don’t see our blind spot.  Each of us has a task.  I have called you to be a light to the nations…”

Big sigh.  Was the e-mail from my friend speaking to my spiritual blindness?  I had sensed pride as the speaker spoke and unfortunately, that is my biggest pet peeve. I asked our Father if that particular sensitivity was holding me back.  I reminded Him of the action which didn’t sit well with me.  I told Him that my hesitance was in attempt to protect the others.  Somehow I sensed God say that He would take care of it and He reminded me that I was praying, wasn’t I?

He also reminded me about the notes I took at Symbolon on Tuesday evening…”Our lives…there is drama right now.  We need to make decisions to impact the bigger story.  We have a role in the overall story.  Even if our role is small, it is irreplaceable.  We all have a role to play in the bigger story of God.”

By now, many of you know I circulated the invitation with hesitation.  Surprisingly, I already received two e-mail in response to it.  I know I do not have to be concerned as God reminds me…”Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6  It’s in Your hands Lord!

God bless,

Melissa – November 6, 2015

REFLECTION:  It is you who tempts yourself…

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

 

It is you who tempts yourself…”  For a moment there, I thought Fr. Jim Nisbet had gone bonkers.   However as I looked up James 1:14-15, I realized his words were true.  But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”
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I always thought it was the devil who tempted us, but Fr. Jim explains that it is both the devil and we, ourselves, who temp us.  We are lured by our own desires (be it for food, glamour, apathy, sexual desires…) and we succumb as a result of our weaknesses.

Our Father expanded on this Scripture in an interesting way.  On one of my rare visits to Richmond, I had purchased a hand-held dessert at a mall and as I strolled around, I took bites off it.  The bites continued while my imagination of how delicious it would taste was active, but in a short while, reality sank in as I noticed an after-taste that I didn’t fancy.  Unconsciously, greed kept my hand reaching for more, but when the morsel was brought to my mouth, it refused to open.    I laughed at my habitual desire to munch on something, but this time, the “cost” of the after-taste kept my unrelenting appetite at bay!  I have no doubt God’s prompting had something to do with it too.

The footnote of the Ignatian Study Bible expands…God tests us by putting us in situations that invite us to trust him (Gen 22:1)  However, he never tempts us to turn away from him as Satan does (Mt 4:1)  James is adamant that God is neither the author nor the promoter of evil, nor can he himself be tempted or overpowered by it.  Sin is our own doing; it is conceived when we desire evil and is born when we act upon those desires (James 1:14-15)  CCC2846-7” 

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”  Mark 7:20-23

I used to have trouble with this scripture verse.  I had a mindset that the verse indicated that God didn’t create us perfect.  In fact, I used to try to prevent pre-Christians from coming across it less they think our all-knowing God didn’t create mankind perfectly.   Last night, during our Symbolon study discussion, it finally dawned on me that God created man perfectly.  He created man in His own image and in His own likeness, in pure union with Him.  Man knew Him so intimately that he readily desired to follow Him.  But then, Lucifer (better known as Satan) and his angels, who were thrown down from Heaven because of their desire to be gods, tempted Adam and Eve with the same desire.  Adam and Eve succumbed.  Their perfect union with God was broken, and concupiscence, the inclination to sin, entered mankind and has been passed on from one generation to the next.

God didn’t create us with this glitch.  He created us perfect, but this glitch, concupiscence, which acts like a computer virus, infected the “programming” of all.

Did you notice that God didn’t put His hands up in disgust and abandon us.  Even from the beginning, in the book of Genesis, immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve, He mentions that the seed of woman would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).  He sent His son, Jesus, to redeem us and to restore our relationship with God.

God is aware of our glitch.  He sees us wounded and He watches us struggle.  He has provided the way back to our original relationship with Him (sanctification), but we need to respond and accept that path.  Daily, moment by moment, we choose whether we would like to take the path He has provided or the path the world offers.

Satan, the devil, doesn’t want us to believe that we have a glitch.  He doesn’t want us to realize that we have to fight to know God.  There is a battle.  We are all in that battle, daily choosing between God or the devil.

St. Ignatius of Loyola writes, “Jesus contrasted his way to the way of the world quite emphatically: “He who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23). St. Ignatius helps us apply this to ourselves in a key meditation in the Spiritual Exercises called “A Meditation on the Two Standards”—a “standard” meaning a flag. (http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/the-two-standards#sthash.A62Afxy6.dpuf)  In essence, who’s flag are you battling for?  God’s or the devil’s?

God bless,

Melissa – November 4, 2015

p.s. – From the Catechism

2846 … for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. . . . There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.”