Archive for the ‘evangelization’ Category

REFLECTION in the Garden: Bumble Bees and Honey Bees…

Monday, July 13th, 2015

IMG_5677 (2)

We have a lot of buzzing visitors in our Father’s garden of late.  As I passed by a fuzzy one who was busy at work this morning, I sensed our Father whisper that we, the children of God, are like these bees.  Just like each bee, each of us has been called to a mission, pollinating each individual with the seed of Truth and eternal life.  I sensed our Father also say that today, the future of our bees are threatened.  Dangers lurk out in our world, threatening  their very survival.  He clearly reminded me that without these busy bees, life on earth will come to an end.  Have you noticed that we, God’s pollinators, are also being threatened by the cares of this world?  Can you foresee what the world’s future will be like when we fail to do God’s bidding?

Father God, thank You for Your lesson in the garden.  Thank You for giving each one of us the desire and the vigour to share Your living word of life with others.  Please help us to work as steadily and as faithfully as these bees so that the world will have Life.  Just as the survival of the bees are dependent on their ability to work together in a colony, help Your children gather together and help us build and encourage each other periodically so that we can remain strong in You.  And Lord, thank you for the loyal example of the bees who are forever loyal to their queen bee.  May we be like them, remaining loyal to You to the very end.

God bless,

Melissa – July 13, 2015

REFLECTION in the Garden: Vines and Water-logged Grass Seeds

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

 

I love early summer mornings, especially when I am drawn to the garden.  It is as if our Father beckons me to His garden so we can walk together  “in the coolness of the day”.  This morning, as I basked in the tranquility and the love surrounding me, I thought of Adam and Eve.  They were in paradise and their friendship with God was so rich.  I wondered why they chose to doubt Him.

Although I didn’t voice my thoughts, it didn’t take long before our Father gave me a glimpse of what could have taken place in the beautiful  Garden of Eden.  A vine (probably a Morning Glory) had worked its way around a rose plant.  I had often asked God why these vines twirl themselves around others and then I sensed, “It’s because they don’t have backbones.  They need the ‘body’ of another to support them!”  I had no doubt a lesson was coming.

Because Satan and his adversaries were cast out forever from Heaven, Satan continues to take His revenge on the Father.  What better way for him than to destroy the Father’s greatest creation in His image and likeness.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured Satan, in the form of a snake, coiled around the body of the woman as she took a bite off the fruit.  I am not sure if it is possible, but as the woman swallowed the fruit, I saw the snake look up at Heaven with a smile.  Isn’t that what the Morning Glory vines do when they are finally exposed to the sun?  Their flowers bloom as they bask in the warmth of the sun!

I wondered why the thorns on the rose plant didn’t protect  it from the vine.  To that, our Father reminded me that the enemy and his adversaries are extremely crafty.  They study our weaknesses and when we aren’t alert, using the weapons (thorns) God has given us, they creep up around us, choking us with their strongholds.

I then moved on to a “green” patch that had brought great disappointment.  The patch was green alright, but it was as a result of the green medium the manufacturers incorporated with the grass seeds to facilitate distribution.  I had bought 3 bags of these “Golf Course quality grass seeds” 2 seasons ago.  Having been told the seeds would keep, I stored these bags in a bin until I was ready to use them.  It appears as if someone had moved the bin because after the April showers, the bin had accumulated some water.  It was such a disappointment to realize that the bags had some holes and water had managed to seep into them.  Hoping against all odds that the seeds would still be alright, I spread the 3 bags worth of seed onto that small plot of land.  Faithful daily watering brought some success, but what resulted was a patch of grass that looked like it survived a horrid mowing experience!

Each day as I faithfully watered the patch, I was reminded that we plant and water, but it is up to God to make the seeds grow.  I had since bought a new bag of seeds and as I bargained with our Father this morning to let the sown seeds grow rather than have me reseed the patch again, He reminded me that the water logged seeds were like the watered down Gospel His people may have preached along the way.  Many preach God’s Word, but some have altered it so that they are not offensive to today’s society.

Our Father asked me to look at the patch.   He reminded me that I had laid down several bags of fertile soil.  He had especially asked me to look at the fake green that laid over it where hardly any grass grew.  He explained that many appeared to have been seeded with His truth, but rather than grow in His truth, they merely reflected a fake green color.  (ie: Baptized pagans sitting on the pews)

He then mentioned that It was only the seeds that were not water logged that were able to take root and to grow.  He expanded that regardless of how regularly I watered them and fertilized them, these damaged seeds would not sprout and take root because they no longer held the “Truth”.  Our Father then reminded me that it was time to reseed the community with His Truth.

Father God, we thank You for Your Word.  We thank You that Your Word has power to transform and heal so that we can grow to be more like Jesus.  Forgive us for diluting Your Word.  We ask for Your grace to be God pleasers rather than people pleasers and we ask for a new revival, a new Pentecost.  Lord, we ask for the grace to go forth with Your New Evangelization to reach those who have never met you, but to also reach those who have been sacramentalized but who still do not know You.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – June 18, 2015 12:44 p.m.

REFLECTION: The call… / (Sacrifice)

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

 

Has God asked anything of you lately?  Do you realize that whatever He’s asked for is, in truth, not for Himself but in fact for you?

What does God ask of humanity?  He calls us to believe in His existence and in His love in order to offer us salvation.  He asks for our faith and trust in Him in order to offer us comfort and hope when we are in doubt and despair.  He calls us to rest in Him when we are weary and over-burdened.   He beckons to us, inviting us to prayer and to read His Word because He knows that we need to know Him and experience His love.  He calls us to obey and follow Him so that we may live life, not in hardship or mediocrity, but life to the full!

Each of us is called to an intimate and personal relationship with God.  But that isn’t all.  Before He died, Jesus prayed for us to His Heavenly Father.  He prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent me.” John 17:20-22  Jesus expressed His desire for our unity…not only a unity of His original apostles, but a unity for all who have followed in their footsteps, generation by generation.

You see, although God calls each of us to have a personal relationship with Him, He doesn’t call us to stand independently of each other.  He calls Christians from near and far, from far and wide, young and old alike, to come together as ONE, united in Him.  We ARE the body of Christ.  We are called to be a community, a body which cannot be separate.  We are called to love each other.

In 1 Peter 2:4-6 we read “As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus.”  In 70 AD, God’s temple in Jerusalem was forever destroyed, never to be rebuilt again.   But today, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  God uses each Christian as a living stone to build His Church.

A majority of rocks and stones are collected from quarries.  When they are first blasted off and cut off from boulders, they are jagged, rough and extremely dusty.  Each of us is like these recently blasted rocks in our early encounters with Jesus.   Many of us arrive dazed and shell shocked from the many painful blasts of life.  Many of us believe that nothing good and/or beautiful can come out of us.  However, as we spend time with God and as we allow Him into our lives, the chiselling, chipping, washing and polishing begins and as our relationship and our journey develops, our beauty within is revealed.  Undeniably, the process is painful, but with God given perseverance and graces, we endure and gradually our beauty is disclosed.

I am reminded of a story of a master builder who was building a special wall in the palace for the king.  Knowing that many would admire his work, he chose to incorporate precious stones among the sturdier ones that would support the wall.  As he stood back to examine the layer he just laid, he heard a ruckus coming from one of the precious stones.  “Sir”, the precious stone exclaimed, “I am one of your precious gems which you have incorporated into this wall.  Look at my colours and look how I glisten when the light falls on me.   But sir, I believe you’ve made a minor error.  That rock which you have put above me has a protrusion that is sitting right on my shoulder.  I cannot continue beaming for the king if that protrusion continues to poke into me.”  The master builder looked closer.   Carefully, he examined the wall and then he exclaimed, “You are right!  I see what the problem is.”  He then took the protruding stone from the wall and examined it and then gently put it down.  He, in turn, pulled out the gleaming gem and examined it.  As he took another look at the protruding stone on the ground, a smile came to his face and he exclaimed, “I’ve got the solution!”  The master took his pick and He whacked the gem open just enough so that the protrusion of the other stone would sit comfortably over it.

God builds His temple out of living stones.  We are those stones.  As we say “yes” to His promptings, God chisels, grinds and polishes each one exactly the way He knows will bring out the very best in us.  We are the living stones that God uses to build his Holy Temple and He has planned a specific spot for each.

What is God, our Father, asking of you this year?  Has He asked you to exercise more patience towards another or has He asked you to let go of your excessive demands over another?  Ask Him what He requires of you.  It is difficult to truly grasp why God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  We have a hint that God was testing both their faith, but wouldn’t you think God’s call on both Abraham and Isaac overly excessive?  And yet, through God’s grace, each was able to fulfill what was asked of them.  What is God asking of you so you can be used to build His holy temple?

In closing, I invite you to watch a powerful clip that accompanies a song penned by Bob Fitts…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcjkJp9VxY8 .  (Do note that the sacrifice of Abraham parallel’s the sacrifice God made of His Son, Jesus.  Notice that it is Isaac, the son, who is carrying the wood just as it is Jesus, the Son, who carries the cross; the wood to be used for the sacrifice.  Take note that God provides a sacrifice for Abraham, but it is a ram.  The true living sacrifice will be Jesus, the Lamb of God.)

God bless,

Melissa – January 10, 2015

p.s. –

SACRIFICE
by Bob Fitts

Oh this must be the hardest hill I’ve ever climbed;
for I must sacrifice you promised son of mine.
And so I go to worship with you by my side
and trust a sacrifice He will provide.

And though I cherish you, I must now offer you
to Him who is the giver of all good things.
And though I cherish you, I must now offer you
for surely He could raise you up again.

Here on this altar Father I lay all my dreams
and offer back to you this child You’ve given me.
Oh son you must believe He’s called us to obey
and by His love He’ll make a better way.

And though I cherish you, I must now offer you
to Him who is the giver of all good things.
And though I cherish you, I will now offer you,
for surely He will raise you up again.

Oh Abraham, Oh Abraham,
now that I know you fear My name, withhold your hand.
Oh Abraham, oh faithful man,
your only son, he’s not the one,
behold the ram,
behold the Lamb…

It must have been the hardest thing He’d ever done,
when God the father sacrificed His only son.
The One that He most cherished gave His life away
and by His love, He made a better way.

And so I cherish You, and so I honour You.
You truly are the giver of all good things.
And so I cherish You, and so I honour You,
Your sacrifice is now the King of kings.

Jehovah-Jireh, He has provided,
the sacrifice of love no man could ever give
and what He requires of you and me, even the hardest thing,
Your blood of Christ, Your Sacrifice is made straight to obey.

Full Song Lyrics: http://www.lyrster.com//www.lyrster.com/lyrics/sacrifice-lyrics-bob-fitts.html#ixzz3OSO8vUtk

REFLECTION: Your resurrection

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

On Thursday evening, several of us attended the memorial Mass of the 97 year old mother of a friend of mine.  Ashanti shared about her mother’s life; she, who quietly passed into our Father’s loving arms while she slept.  What touched me the most was this elder’s faithfulness in praying her children back into the Christian faith.  Unfortunately, many of us parents walk in a similar path.  What joy to know that this one saw each of her 5 return to our Lord while she walked on planet Earth.

Having flown back from Agassiz to celebrate this special Mass, Fr. Jack Dias began his homily with, “Both life and death are gifts from God.  Both gifts are free so we can glorify God.”  I believe we can all readily agree that the earthly life which begins with the birth of a child is truly a gift, but death, a gift as well?  Fr. continued, “Without the gift of death, we cannot get into Heaven.  Death becomes a door to Heaven.”

Hold on, does this door to Heaven open for all?  Had Adam and Eve trusted God, ALL would enter Heaven.  However, free will, which God had bestowed on man, gave and still gives man the liberty to make choices.  Sadly, the first man and woman chose to disobey God.  Because of this Fall, the original innocence and purity God created in man became tainted by sin.  From then on, concupiscence (the innate tendency of humans to long for fleshly appetites) tainted the nature of man and unfortunately, many continue to fall.

The created turns against its Creator.  Science fiction?  Not in this case.  Have you felt the desire to over-indulge in food, alcohol, sex or bully another?  Has money controlled your desires and actions, minimizing your willingness to reach out to help another?  Whether you realize it or not, these are actual temptations which the devil, our adversary, plants into our minds.  Having been thrown down from Heaven himself because of his own rejection of God, the devil does whatever He can to destroy man and to keep him from returning to God.  Whatever harm we do to ourselves or another is turning against God.  Why?  Because He created us. His desire is for us to know Him and for His children to live full, happy lives.   Regardless of seeing many backs turned His way, God continues to seek man.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”  John 10:25-26  That’s a bit heavy, isn’t it?  Perhaps we should start from the beginning.

Let’s begin at the Garden of Eden.  “ … The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17  Notice how the word “die” comes into the picture?  Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18  And woman becomes a member of planet earth.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field  which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;  but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.  Genesis 3:1-7

Did you notice how the devil, taking the form of a serpent, twisted the truth?  He is very good at that.  In fact, one of his titles is the Father of Lies.  Do you see how he lured Eve into believing that she would be like God?  Would you believe that was the very same thing that caused him to fall?

The eyes of Adam and Eve were definitely opened, and what did they see?  They realized they were naked!  That didn’t matter before, but having their eyes opened, their nakedness became an issue.

Was God mad?  I’m sure He was, but He didn’t exhibit it.  In today’s lingo, God was COOL.  He came, strolling along in the cool of the morning calling out for Adam and Eve because they were nowhere to be seen.

Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”  He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:9-13

Did you notice how quickly Adam put the blame on the woman?  Did you notice how he also put the blame on God by addressing the woman as “The woman YOU gave to be with me”?  As to the woman, she quickly put the blame on the serpent!  Sound familiar?  We continue to do the same, don’t we?

As with every choice made, we face the blessing or the consequence that goes along with it.  To the serpent, God said… And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15  THIS was God’s fore shadowing promise that He would one day provide a way for man to return back to the loving union he once shared with God through One that would be born of woman.

Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  John 6:35  God had sent not an angel, but His Son, Jesus, down from Heaven to do His will.  Jesus was not transported down to earth as an adult, but He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born to a virgin mother, Mary.

What did Jesus do?  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10  Lost?  Yes, all who have turned away from the Father.  He didn’t set up an office and wait for people to come.  Instead, He walked around and talked with the people, mingling with the broken, the lonely, the forgotten, the rejected, the unwelcomed… anyone and all who needed the touch of God’s love.   He taught, at times by parables, but more often than not, He taught by how He lived, through His loving actions.  He healed… the sick, the lepers, the lame, the blind, the demon possessed.  He raised the dead and with 2 fish and 5 loaves of barley bread, he fed the multitudes (5000 men) with 12 baskets of left over remaining.

More than anything, Jesus gently healed the spiritual brokenness of those who sought Him…
“Teacher,” they (the Pharisees and religious teachers) said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” … Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. …Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”   “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:4-11  Unlike the Pharisees , Jesus doesn’t create a scene nor does He nag nor berate.  He simply forgives and sends her off, encouraging her to sin no more.

Jesus did not limit His ministry to His kind (Jews),   In the heat of noon, as he rested by a well in the midst of His travels, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman.  To her surprise, He speaks to her, overlooking the set traditions that Jews do not associate with Samaritans, let alone a woman on her own.  He offers her “living water” and bids her to call her husband.  The woman replies, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” John 4:17-18

Did you notice what transpired here?  Because He is God, Jesus knew every detail of the woman’s background, and yet, He does not accuse her of anything.  When He asks her to call her husband, she replies with the truth.  He then reveals what He knows of her and she responds, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” John 4: 25-26

“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” …Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4: 39-42

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  John 6:35  During His 3 years of public life, Jesus fulfilled what the Father had sent Him to do.  He proclaimed  “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. … “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” John 6:35-40  He healed the sick, He raised the lame and brought sight to the blind, he resurrected the dead, and He brought spiritual healing.

There was still one crucial thing Jesus had to do.  When the appropriate time came, “He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:42 Jesus knew exactly what He had to do and He knew the excruciating toll it would take.   He knew He still needed to take on ALL the sins of the world… past, present and future, upon himself and to die a horrific death, so that death would be conquered once and for all.

Jesus died on the cross over 2000 years ago.  And on the 3rd day, the Holy Spirit raised Him up from the dead.   Jesus is ALIVE and well and he now sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for all.

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:35-40

Do you believe?

God bless,

Melissa – August 7, 2014

p.s. – http://powertochange.com/discover/faith/godandloved/ <- FALLING PLATES

REFLECTION: Dry bones…

Monday, July 14th, 2014

 

Dry bones… dry, dry bones.  What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read these words?  My thoughts rest on a sun bleached bovine skull and its sun baked bones in a scorching desert.

Ezekiel, an Old Testament Prophet, had a vision.  He wrote, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones.  And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and behold, they were very dry.”    God asks him, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  God then tells him, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord God to these bones:  Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel obeys and as he prophesies to these bones, he hears rattling sounds.  As he opens his eyes hesitantly and peers through half-shut lids, he sees the bones coming together!  Now, looking on with excitement, he notices that sinews and flesh have come on them and skin now covers them!  God then asks Ezekiel to “prophesy to the spirit” and “the spirit comes into them, and they live and stand upon their feet.” God then says, “Son of man, these bones are the bones of the whole of Israel.  Behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost.” Ezekiel 37: 1-11

Was there a time when you felt so beaten, every ounce of your spirit sucked up and your bones had become oh so dry?  In his first chapter of “Waking the Dead”, author John Eldredge writes…   ”Twenty clear days a year – that sounds about like my life.  I think I see what’s really going on about that often.  The rest of the time it feels like fog.”  “Why have things gone the way they have?  Where was God in all that? “  “Oh, I’d love to wake each morning knowing exactly who I am and where God is taking me.” “ It’s awesome when I do see.  But for most of us, life seems more like driving along with a dirty windshield and then turning into the sun.  I can sort of make out the shapes ahead, and I think the light is green.” Footnote 1

“Let’s start with why life is so dang hard.” “ Yes, we have our faith.  But even there – maybe especially there – it all seems to fall rather short of the promise.  There’s talk of freedom and abundant life, of peace like a river and joy unspeakable, but we see precious little of it, to be honest.”  Footnote 1

Can you relate to that?  Many barely make it, merely surviving one moment at a time!  “We are losing – or we have already lost – heart.  That glorious, resilient image of God in us is fading, fading, fading away.” Footnote 2

What has happened?  Didn’t Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth and the life”?  John 14:6 Jesus said that He would show us the way to life, but why are many Christians living miserable lives?  Jesus didn’t come down from Heaven to endure unbearable torment so we would continue to live miserably here on earth, only to live happily in Heaven… after we die.  During his Lenten mission earlier this year, Fr. Emmerich said, “Every Christian’s resurrection takes place HERE (earth) and not in Heaven.  Do you get that?  DO YOU GET THAT?  I wonder how many really do?

During the latter part of Lent, one of the Old Testament Scripture reading was “…You shall know that I am Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people…  I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU AND YOU SHALL LIVE … then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:13-14   This, in fact, is the tail end of Ezekiel’s vision.

Our graves are opened, God has given us the power to rise from our graves, but have we gotten up?  Barely!  Even before we are able to get out of bed, we are already bombarded.  Thoughts of fear, anger, and retaliation fill our minds and even before the bed covers are thrown off our bodies, we are already exhausted and beaten.

Victim.  Recognize that word?  I didn’t realize I had identified with that “name” for the longest while until I heard one of Neale Lazano’s CD.  He said, “You are NOT a victim.  That is NOT your name.”  That was definitely not my name, but I had identified with it for such a long, long time.  Unknowingly, I had accepted that title in my younger years and I had identified with it and lived accordingly.

Was I unwittingly lured to it?  Yes.  My undiagnosed Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity in my childhood years had made me uncontrollable and the excessive discipline I received because of it shaped my thoughts. The inability to comprehend and the many hours left alone to lick my wounds created the perfect scenario.  The devil flung multiple lies my way, telling me there was nothing in me that deserved being loved; my behaviour would always be unacceptable and I deserved to be punished repeatedly…  These were lies but no one was around to tell me otherwise and so, as the thoughts came, I accepted them as my truth.

But it doesn’t happen only to the young.  Many teens and adults go through incomprehensible agonies.  An unwelcomed incident happens within the family circle.  Already too pre-occupied with their individual busy schedules, the couple angrily battle each other and/or their children.  Their inability to communicate healthily and effectively lead to more unresolved grievances and unmet needs.   They accumulate and accumulate… unresolved, deeply buried, often forgotten.  Although hidden, the  potency of each pain is still as strong as when it was first experienced and they leak and seep up to the surface, often summoned by similar experiences.  Had they been dealt with when they first occurred, they would have been easier to handle, but now, they’ve accumulated and amalgamated with many others.  Now they have become too strong.  The teens and even their parents can’t figure it out.  The incidents happened so long ago and now, there are too many of them.  Unable to identify and alleviate the cause of their pain, they attempt to run away, but running doesn’t help.  Their very being follows wherever they go… they cannot detach.  Eventually, alcohol and drugs come into the picture in attempt to numb the pain and perhaps bring about a momentary bliss.  While the physical torment goes on, the adversaries of the evil one have kept busy, invisibly dropping one lie after another.  Weakened and isolated, the individual accepts each lie until all hope is gone and he/she is no longer able to rise, even from an opened grave.

John Eldredge continues, “WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE?  Good grief – life is brutal.  Day after day it hammers us, till we lose sight of what God intends toward us, and we haven’t the foggiest idea why the things that are happening to us ARE happening to us.”  Elridge clearly spells it out…  “WE ARE AT WAR”.  At war?  “No we’re not!  We’re not living in a war torn country.” one might argue.  But what many fail to grasp is that our battle is not of this world!

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

“Hogwash!” one might say.   Really?  That’s what the devil and his adversaries would like everyone to think.  The less we are aware that the battle is taking place, the less we will be on defense.

Had our opponents been visible, would our fight be more active or would we merely cowl in corners, flailing our arms in attempt to protect ourselves?  On September 11th, the “enemy” was visible.  They came in hijacked planes with hundreds of loved ones subjected to their merciless scheme.  But America was not prepared and hundreds upon hundreds of innocent lives perished.  The world of terrorism acknowledged their hand in the event and the world, fully aware of the threat they imposed, united against them.

But what if there was an invisible cloak?  What if the world of terrorism didn’t declare their involvement in the event?  Wouldn’t this be similar to the incident of the Malaysian flight that disappeared?  While the memory lasted, the world was left at a loss, wondering what they could do to prevent a future catastrophe.

These incidents happened en-masse, but the battle we are discussing takes place individually, in our own homes…  in our own lives… in our own minds.  No one is spared.  From the time a child is able to distinguish right from wrong, the attack begins.  More often than not, the attacks are cloaked because we don’t recognize them for what they are.  We often pass them off as our own horrid thoughts.  Many are tormented but we don’t know how to stop them.

We have been warned…  “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8  But how many have taken heed?  Not many.  What about you?   Not familiar with God’s Word?   Fail to make time to open your Bible and/or perhaps glazing over when Scripture is read during Mass?

We have been warned… ”my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”  Hosea 4:6

“…Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.  Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways.  The way of peace they know not, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked, no one who goes in them knows peace.  Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we look for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.  We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigour we are like dead men.  We all growl like bears, we moan and moan like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.  For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us…” Isaiah 59: 6-11

Although the previous Scripture from Isaiah was written in 700 B.C., it accurately describes our worldly situation today.  What is going on?  “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness.  No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.”  Isaiah 49:1-4

But wasn’t that in the past before Jesus came to earth?  Aren’t we now at the time after the coming of Jesus Christ?  Isn’t the world filled with more Christians today?

Is it?

We have many who refer to themselves as Christians, but are they really?  Christianity is not merely a name, it is a lifestyle.  It is knowing and acknowledging that I am a sinner and realizing and believing that through the death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ, my sins are forgiven and I immediately become a child of God.  But there’s more!  It also means that by God’s grace, I am now given the POWER, through the Holy Spirit, to CHOOSE to turn away from my wicked ways and the power to CHOOSE to follow God’s way.

The power is given, but unfortunately, more often than not, the choice taken is away from God…

A majority of Catholics have been baptized into God’s family as infants.  Fr. Hampsh explains that we have been initiated into God’s family by the Sacrament of Baptism, but he clearly explains that it doesn’t and it cannot end there.  As we grow, our parents and Catechism teachers bring us to a greater understanding and love for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and eventually, we need to CHOOSE to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is a relationship with the meeting of two hearts.

Christianity is not blind faith; it is a living and growing relationship with the LIVING God.  No one can make that choice for us.  Many would like to and unfortunately, some have even attempted to force that choice on others, but it really is a free willed choice that each one has to make.

Have you been left behind along the way?  Many have.  It is evident by the fact that many Christians are barely living.  And yet Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the devil has continued to steal the joy of God’s children and apparently, he has been successful in killing and destroying so many lives.  But wait!  Jesus came down to planet Earth to bring God’s children back to Him.  Jesus clearly mentions that He came so that we would have life and within the same sentence, He clarifies that He is not talking about merely living like a bird imprisoned within a cage, but living an abundant life!

Before He returned to the Father in Heaven, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit.  But why? He knew they needed the supernatural strength of the very One, the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead.  “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  Luke 24:49 “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  John 14:26

Many of us, who have been baptized as infants, don’t realize that as we were adopted into God’s family, we were simultaneously given the Holy Spirit to guide us and to empower us to live victoriously!  So what went wrong?  Let’s start with… How is your friendship with God?  Do you  really know God, or do you merely know of him?

When you finally meet Him at the gates of Heaven, how would you respond when God asks why you didn’t call on His name and take His hand during your times of turmoil, but instead, you blamed Him and cursed Him.  Convicted?  That’s all He wants of you.  He wants each of us to realize that we continue to fall and we truly need His help to battle the cunning adversary.  He wants us to realize that He has provided the ways of escape through His Word and He has given us the power through the Holy Spirit.

So how are we going to respond?  With another “ho-hum”?

Father God, thank You for sending Jesus down to planet earth to bridge us back to You.  Father, forgive us for our free-willed choice of dismissing and rejecting Your teachings and ways.  Father, open our spiritual eyes so we can see that You forgive when we ask for Your pardon and help us take an active part in our spiritual well-being.  Father, help us see that our eternal future depends on the choices we make.  And Lord, for those who have climbed the spiritual ladder, help each see that the temptations of the enemy becomes more subtle and that they are prone to spiritual pride.  We need You Lord and we ask that You will eventually bring us back Home to You when our time on earth is over.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – July 13, 2014

p.s.
– Aneel Aranha’s online teaching “The Armor of God”
(http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/aneelaranha/armorofgod/introduction.asp is also exceptional.  Do consider learning the ways to defeat the attacks of the devil in your life and in the lives of your loved ones.

The Parable of the Sower Explained (Matt 13:18-23)

“Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the Evil One comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 

As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” 

– Lord, renew our mind in You and cultivate it so that Your Word will take root in our hearts and lives.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Footnotes:
1) page 5, Waking the Dead
2) page 22

REFLECTION: The silence and slowness of God…

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

 

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany; the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”  John 11: 1-6

Like many others, I have heard and read this scripture passage many times with very little effect.  Nevertheless, on Wednesday, through the process of Lectio Divina, our Father revealed something deeper than I could have imagined.

Did you notice something odd in the scripture passage?  Notice that it was Jesus’ friends, Mary and Martha, who had beckoned Him to come to their brother’s aid.  The content of their message was, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  Although they knew the depth of the friendship they shared, perhaps by reminding Jesus of his love for their brother, he would come more quickly.  Notice that the author, the Apostle St. John, also very clearly indicates that Jesus loved Martha, her sister and Lazarus.  And yet, as if it was the normal thing to do, he writes, “So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

What was wrong with Jesus?!?  Did he forget who his friends were?  Didn’t he remember the people he loved… the people closest to his heart?  Even John knew his affection for these folks!  Didn’t it register in Jesus’ mind that someone he loved was dying?  What were Mary and Martha thinking?  They must have wondered what was taking him so long.  They knew he loved each of them.  Did this delay lead them to doubt  the sincerity of his love?

How many times have you found yourself in a similar situation?  We know God loves us.  He even promises that He is always with us and that He would never leave us.  And yet, there are times when we feel so abandoned, alone, rejected and betrayed.

As my reflection deepened, the memory of two mothers I had specifically been interceding for came to mind.  One has a beautiful 20 year old daughter who is bipolar and who, at times, is taunted with suicidal thoughts.  The other has a daughter who suffers from a rare genetic defect and who is also tormented with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  The latter had shared that she and her daughter had just about lost hope.

During my waking hours and during my sleepless nights, my prayers are lifted for them during those moments when God puts them in my heart.  I plead and beg for each mother; I plead and beg for each child… remembering the many years when I had pled for my own.  I remind our Father that I know He loves each of them so much and I plead for Him to give them minute miracles so that they can continue on.  I ask for his compassion and I beg him to give them the extra-ordinary graces that they need so that they don’t give up and they continue to hold on to Him.  And many times I beg him to “please hurry” and to “please let each one sense His presence even at the moment”.

And then I am reminded that I am not their mother.  Knowing that our Father only gives me a taste of their misery so I can intercede for them, my heart breaks when I realize how much anguish these moms go through.  In solidarity with them for the love of our children, God encourages me to pray even more.

There is still another who felt totally abandoned in the midst of his grief and agony.  Jesus, isolated and distanced from those he loved as he hung on the cross, agonized to vocalize his misery as he whispered through His bloodied, bruised and swollen lips… “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Matt 27:46   Although without sin, Jesus willingly took on all the sins of the world, knowing that it (sin)  would completely block him from His Father and He would be left to die on the cross… totally alone.

Did you hear His anguished cry?  He felt abandoned.  He must have called and called out for the Father as He hung on the cross.  He must have yearned even for a whisper, a simple sign to show Him that the Father was still with Him.  And yet, all He heard was silence…

But wait, Jesus was still God, wasn’t He?  He still had the power to come down from that cross!  And yet He remained there, silently submitting His will to the Father.

“Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”…  “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of his sleep.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”  Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.”  John 11: 7-8; 11-18

The disciples had warned Jesus not to return to Judea because the Jews had intended to stone Him.  Was that the reason why they didn’t resist when he said they were going to stay on for two more days?  Was Jesus afraid and was that why He didn’t come to the aid of His friend immediately?  Perhaps it was safer to wait for 2 days so the anger and volatility of the Jewish crowds could settle before they returned.  But was that 2 days of waiting what caused Lazarus to die?   Let’s do the math.  Jesus waited for 2 more days and by the time He arrived, Lazarus had already been dead 4 days.  When Jesus spoke to Martha and Mary, each of them had said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11: 21/32.  Was there truth in what they said?  It sounds logical to blame Jesus, doesn’t it?  Nevertheless, let’s examine the passage again.  When Jesus decided to set off after the second day, didn’t he mention that Lazarus had already died?  Even if he left immediately, foot travel would not have gotten Him there on time.

 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.  John 11:38-45

Mary and Martha and, perhaps, even Lazarus didn’t expect him to die.  It was evident the two women blamed Jesus’ delay for the death.  Jesus knew Lazarus was going to die, however, He knew something greater was ahead which was not yet privy to the human world.

Wasn’t it strange that Jesus said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”?  And later He said, “and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.”  Believe what?

In His sermons, Jesus said , “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6  Jesus claimed to be the divine son of God.  Although His friends felt betrayed that He did not prevent Lazarus from dying, the miracle that He would perform in bringing this very man back to life would support His claim that He was the true God who had come down to earth to save mankind.

And “many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him”.  John 11:45

Father God, we thank You for always standing by our side and never leaving us.  At times the turmoil in our lives block you from our senses and we fail to hear you or even sense your presence.  Lord, we ask that You bless us with the same faith Jesus had when he felt so abandoned on the cross.  Although He was in immense pain and he could no longer carry on, he trusted You and knew that You had a plan that was bigger and better than what we in this world could imagine.  Thank you for dying for us Lord Jesus and for being the bridge back to the Father’s heart.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – April 5, 2014

REFLECTION: Is someone at the door?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

 doorknocking

Would you readily open the door when someone knocks or rings the bell at your front door?  I wouldn’t.  I’ve had one too many solicitors come by and so, unless I know it’s the mailman or someone I am expecting, I totally ignore the beckoning of the unwelcomed guest.

But what would you do if Someone was knocking at your spiritual door?  Have you heard it said ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  Rev 3:20  I would assume this scripture would sound terribly odd and disconcerting to one unfamiliar with the passage.  But in truth, no one needs to be concerned.  You see, Jesus doesn’t barge into anyone’s life.  Although He is God, He remains patiently at the door of your heart, waiting for you to open the door and to invite Him into your life.

Take a look at the picture.  Notice something odd about the door?  The exterior door knob is missing.  Each artist depicting this scene intentionally leaves the door knob out to symbolize that each individual has full control of the decision.

But what happens if you hesitantly open the door, will He barge in?  Based on my personal experience and the personal experience of many others, He waits for you to invite Him in.  In truth, even if you’ve opened the door before and left it ajar, each morning He waits for you, once again, to invite Him into your life.  Why?  Because he respects the free will of every individual.  He doesn’t assume that once you’ve invited Him into your life, He has free reign over your life.  He doesn’t take it for granted that just because you’ve invited Him once, that He is forever welcome.

Many of us take Jesus for granted.  Many of us were born and raised in Catholic Christian families and were baptized as infants.   We were taught the narrative of Jesus’ birth as children and we received sufficient Catechism teachings so that we were able to receive our first Holy Communion and our Confirmation.  But unfortunately, that was it.  We continue to show up for Mass because, in the back of our minds, we don’t want to end up in Hell.  We’ve learned enough to know that there are certain things we have to engage in to make ourselves and others think that we are living a good enough life to qualify for Heaven.  We may even say we “know” Jesus and are able to recite who He is and what He had done, but in truth, we merely know of Him.  We don’t know Him the way he yearns to be known and we ignore Him until we are in a crisis and we need a favour from Him.  Then we either ask Him for something or we ask others who know Him more intimately to pray for us so that we can get what we want.  Been there?  Done that?

We can fool ourselves and the rest of the world, but we can’t fool Jesus.  Proverbs 21:2 teaches “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7 adds … “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

I often wonder what Peter saw when his eyes caught Jesus’ glance after he denied Jesus 3x before His crucifixion.    Undoubtedly, Peter saw sadness and disappointment, but he also saw compassion, understanding and forgiveness.  What Peter saw in Jesus’ eyes was enough to keep him moving in the direction Jesus had wanted him to.  Unfortunately, Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, didn’t turn to look back at Jesus.  Without a doubt, I am sure he would have received the same healing glance that Peter received, but sadly he didn’t choose to glance Jesus’ way.

Is Jesus at the door of your heart, gently calling out your name?  You may have heard him whispering your name, but you have chosen, instead, to muffle his voice and distract yourself with the other “voices” of the world.  Would you look through the peep hole and see that He continues to wait patiently for you, ever so gently calling out your name.  Would you look and see that He is not upset nor angry that you have turned your back on Him.  Do you hear Him whispering…”Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matt 11:28

Do consider opening the door and inviting Him in.  Do consider inviting Him into your life day after day and get to know Him.  He has been waiting for so long to know you… intimately.

God bless,

Melissa – January 7, 2014

p.s. –

Dear God, I’ve been living my life my own way.  Now I

want to live it your way.  I need You and I invite You 

to take control of my life.  I receive Your Son, Jesus

Christ, as my personal Saviour and Lord.  I believe He

died for my sins and He has risen from the dead.  Please

wash me from all sin, shame and guilt.  Come into my life

Lord Jesus and sit on the throne of my life.  I want to have

a personal relationship with you.  Make me the

kind of person you want me to be.  In Jesus’ name I pray,

AMEN.


REFLECTION: In the beginning…

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

 

In the beginning, at the onset of time, God created out of nothing.  Out of nothing, He created all that was to be in five days, and on the 6th, He created “man”, male and female, in His image and likeness.  In each living creation, God placed a seed and to each of its kind, He blessed and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number.” Genesis 1:22  To the ones He created in His image he said, “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.   Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”  Genesis 1: 28-30

Why didn’t God reign over the world He created?  Why did He give man reign over all?  Was He expecting to be too busy or, did He think He would not be able to cope with it?  The Catholic Catechism explains…

“God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.

To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of “subduing” the earth and having dominion over it.  God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors. Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their sufferings.  They then fully become “God’s fellow workers” and co-workers for his kingdom.” (Paragraphs 306 – 308, Catholic Catechism, Simplified Version)

Although man and beast were created on the 6th day, it is man, alone, who was created in friendship with God.  It is to him that God had given the ability to share, through knowledge and love, in God’s own life.  Man was not created to be something, but he was created to be someone.  He was given the capacity of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving  of himself and entering into friendship with another.  It is to man, alone, that God has given the grace to enter into a covenant with his Creator… to offer Him a response of faith and love.

Adam and Eve, our first parents, were created in an original “state of holiness and justice” and it was in this state of holiness that they were able to share in the divine life.   As long as man remained in the divine intimacy, he would not have to suffer or die.  The inner harmony of the human person, which today’s society so longs for, the harmony between people and the harmony of the first couple and all creation comprised the state called “original justice”.

God’s gift to man of “mastery” over the whole world was realized within man himself… mastery of self.  Man had integrity.  He was given the ability to correctly order his internal powers according to reason and will.  He had self-dominion.  He had self-control.  The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence, the 3 evils… “sensual lust, enticement for the eyes and a pretentious life” 1 John 2:16

Then, evil crept in.  Evil didn’t happen by chance.  Evil didn’t happen by an over-sight nor an error on God’s part.  Evil entered when angels, who were created good by God, made an irrevocable, free-willed choice to reject God… not in error, but because of pride.

Thrown down from Heaven, the devil and all the adversaries were furious and they wanted revenge.   Not wanting God’s other creations to enjoy His love and His companionship, the devil immediately targeted Adam and Eve, the first humans on planet earth.   Man succumbed to the deceit of the Evil One… exchanging the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.  Since then, man has been subjected to love the world in selfish, disordered ways:  feeding his flesh with pleasures; feeding his eyes with the world’s possessions; and feeding his spirit with his pride.   Until Jesus’ second coming, the devil and his adversaries will continue to prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls. (1 Peter 5:8)

”But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” towards its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.

(Angels and…) Men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.  He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:  For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself. “(Paragraphs 310-311 Catholic Catechism)

So was that it?  Did God abandon man, allowing the devil free reign over the world while leaving man with no recourse?  Let’s examine Genesis 3…

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”” Genesis 3:1-8

Did you read that?  God didn’t throw a bolt of lightning to annihilate Adam and Eve, but instead, God walked through the garden calling out for them.

He (Adam) answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” 

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals!  You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:10-19

Just as the devil and his adversaries were thrown down from Heaven as a result of their free willed choice to turn away from God, Adam and Eve, too, were held accountable for theirs.  Although Adam and Eve were punished, the devil (in the form of the serpent) was cursed for tempting mankind.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

“Genesis 3:15 has a prophetic nature to it, for there is a promise in the future of redemption, that someone (Jesus) will crush the head of the serpent.  God’s judgement upon the serpent contains a promise of ultimate victory through the woman by her offspring. This concept is developed in a spiritual sense throughout Scripture and the Fathers of the Church.”

Just as God walked through the garden calling out to Adam and Eve when they had sinned,  God calls out to us when we, in turn, choose to turn away from Him.  We attempt to hide, but He waits patiently for us to return.  He loved mankind too much to leave us where we were at and so, just as He declared in the beginning in Genesis 3:15, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the sin of the world, redeeming each one who welcomes Him into their life and He brings each one back to the heart of the Father.

God blesss,

Melissa – November 16, 2013

References:

http://www.cftministry.org/resources/articles/article_why.html – Why Did God Create
Humanity?
http://biblescripture.net/First.html – GENESIS 3:15 -THE PROTOEVANGELIUM OR “FIRST
GOSPEL”

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p4.htm  – The Catechesis of
Creation

REFLECTION: Would you take a stand? (Part 2)

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

 

Three days ago, I came across an article that was posted on my Elementary School friend’s Facebook page.   Above the link was the caption “When one has a personal relationship with Jesus, self governance begins.”   The title of the article, Does Catholicism Make Us More Tolerant of Corruption? (http://joeam.com/2013/08/26/does-catholicism-make-us-more-tolerant-of-corruption) by itself, infuriated me.   The article pertained to the current political situation in the Philippines.  I had begun a dialogue with Andrew, the author, which is available in Part 1.

As I continued to pray and reflect on the dialogue, Luke 12:12-13 came to mind “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;  for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  To me, it was clearly evident that it was the Holy Spirit’s words that I had penned.  I sense our Father prompting us to encourage each other to take a stand for our faith and not to be afraid of what we ought to say because it will be the Holy Spirit who will speak through us.

1 Peter 3:15  encourages us…  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, “  What good are our words when the person we are in dialogue with is standing back with his/her arms up.   1 Corinthians 13:1  teaches…” If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  May God give each of us the grace to speak in love so that others may experience His love.

Part 2 has come to life because Andrew, the author of the article, has responded.  He wrote…

 “I can’t disagree with anything you said, except that in my view, it leads to nowhere, except on an individual basis. It’s like that aphorism ” Change should come from each one of us” which is arguably correct and well-meaning, but it just leads to more of the status quo.

I am not sarcastic when I say this, but this was the same refrain during Marcos’ time, Erap’s time and Gloria’s time! And up to now it is still the same!

I am in the business of “getting things done”. I would like to see tangible, measurable, discrete activities, not just well-intentioned teachings of the hierarchy. And I think my frustration is shared by many.

For instance, are there parallel investigations within the Church on Monsignor Josefino Ramirez, Fr Peter Lavin et al? What has happened to the case of Monsignor Garcia of Cebu who was involved in ivory smuggling? Where are the reports on them and decisive actions taken? Why is there always a reshuffling and a cover-up?

At least Pope Francis has taken steps to signal that in his term, it would be different. Things would move, and it is reasonable to expect it will happen in this lifetime.

PS I appreciate our conversation very much. I have this inkling that you are not just a lay person. :)”

 

To my surprise, I received an additional response from an individual named Edgar Lores.  He wrote…

“Another of my two cents to M’s post.

Psychology has uncovered patterns of behaviour and thought which men rely on to protect ego. These patterns are called “defence mechanisms”. It is interesting to analyse the above post by the mechanisms used:

1. “I’ve been reflecting on your response and on the correlation you have chosen. You may have a good point in identifying the numerous weaknesses of the past and present politicians, however, I still find it inappropriate to use the Catholic Church in your analogy. To me, it’s similar to realizing that a majority of the people who are corrupt have black hair and so you make the inference that all people with black hair are corrupt. Do you see what I mean?”

1.1. In the defence mechanism of Intellectualisation a “person may discuss his problem(s) in an analytical, rational, intellectual way”.

1.2. The intellectualisation here is by use of an analogy. The analogy compares Andrew’s essay as being equivalent to the observance that “a majority of the people who are corrupt have black hair” which purportedly leads to the “rational” inference “that all people with black hair are corrupt.”

1.3. The introduction to this analogy states, “I still find it inappropriate to use the Catholic Church in your analogy”.

1.4. In the first place, Andrew is not making an analogy. An analogy is a comparison. Andrew is not making a comparison. He is presenting a thesis which uses correlations.

1.5. In the second place, Andrew is making a reasoned thesis. He presents 4 correlations to support his thesis. To compare Andrew’s essay to the analogy of “people with black hair” is illogical because @M does not present any correlational reason, a cause-and-effect, between black hair and corruption.

2. “I would assume that those in government positions who are corrupt are corrupt not because of what they claim to be in their faith walk, but because of who they are. Perhaps greed and self-centeredness prevail in their lives and they continue to pursue this ideal in their chosen careers. The fact that they claim to be Catholic is just by name rather than practise. As you may know (I’m assuming you are a Christian), Christianity is not a title, but a lifestyle.”

2.1. There are two defence mechanisms here: Rationalisation and Denial.

2.2. Rationalisation involves “explaining an unacceptable behaviour or feeling in a rational or logical manner, avoiding the true reasons for the behaviour”. The rationalisation here is in the observation that people “who are corrupt are corrupt not because of what they claim to be in their faith walk, but because of who they are.” Specifically, the rationalisation is that the explanation for corrupt behaviour is the very nature of people, in “who they are”. This is not an illumination explanation.

2.3. Denial is the refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. The subtlety of the denial here lies in the use of the word “claim”, and the denial is that “people who ‘claim’ to be something” are NOT that something.

2.4. If one extends this logic to its fullest absurd conclusion, one would be able to say that no one is a true Catholic because all “Catholics” have sinned (even if only by Original Sin).

2.5. It is interesting to note that this schizoid logic allows the Church to say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. The sinner is the sin, and if I claim to be a Catholic, I am a Catholic.

2.6. One cannot resist the temptation to ask, “When did greed and self-centeredness become ideals?”

3. “You mention about purgatory and how these so called “Catholics” are choosing to use it to give them a chance to “get away” with the dirt they are engaged in now. Have you not heard that we are all called to walk through the narrow gate? Do you think these so called “Catholics” know what they are getting themselves into? They may think they can get away with things, but God sees what they are doing. They may think they can deceive God, but God sees the motives of man.”

3.1. No defence mechanism here. At last — at long last! — we have an attempt to present a counter argument against Andrew’s Purgatory reason. @M contends that so called “Catholics” cannot get away with things because “God sees the motives of man”.

3.2. The counter argument does not stand. Andrew does not contend that God is blind. Andrew’s contention is that wayward Catholics think they can get away with things because they believe they can repent at their final hour — (and perhaps repent periodically thru confession?) — and still be a shoo-in candidate for Purgatory.

4. “It is sad that many who are not walking in their Catholic faith continue to claim they are Catholics. Claiming a “title” or “identity” for oneself doesn’t have power in itself. It then just becomes a name. Little do they know they are deceiving themselves and others. These name claimers are the very ones who destroy the purity of the Catholic faith.”

4.1. This is just a repeat and an extension of the second paragraph’s rationalisation and denial.

5. “I would suggest that you focus on the core source of the corruption rather than blaming it on the religion which some claim to follow.”

5.1. This begs the question: What is the core source of corruption? Is it because men are essentially “who they are”? If that is so, there is no hope for the country unless all men are wiped out and the dinosaurs return.

6. “God bless you Andrew!”

6.1. Ah, the usual patronising “adios”. Or is it? Could it be deflection through humor? Or displacement of hostility with civility?”

 

I was floored for a moment, but God’s grace returned and so I wrote…

“Thank you for your interesting reply Edgar and may God’s peace be with you. I’ve never had another analyze what I have written and I am impressed by the effort taken!

By the way, my offering of God’s peace to you is not intended to patronize, but it is a sincere extension of God’s peace.

Scripture says… “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.” Luke 10:5-6

You say I am in denial, I know I’m not, but that’s a choice you make. Each of us chooses the manner in which we see the world. You write… “2.3. Denial is the refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. ” Are you insisting that I fail to see the corruption that is and has been going on in the Philippines? I beg to differ. My choice of words may not be to your liking, but I do see and have experienced the effects of the corruption.

I’d like to address your point 2.4 ” If one extends this logic to its fullest absurd conclusion, one would be able to say that no one is a true Catholic because all “Catholics” have sinned (even if only by Original Sin).” ALL Catholics, who, by the way, are also Christians, are sinners. Romans 3:23 teaches…”for ALL (Christians or not) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And yet, we have been given the grace … “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 Do note there is a cause and effect relationship here. Man has to do his part…CONFESS OUR SINS. I believe this involves true repentance. True repentance requires “expressing a sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrong doing or sin”. It also requires one to turn his/her back towards sin. Hence, if man does not do his part, God won’t and can’t do his.  Why?  Although it would benefit man, God will not force himself on anyone.  

It is in every human being’s nature to sin. It is for that reason why Jesus came down from Heaven to be the atonement of our sins. He took upon himself all the sins of the world (past, present and future) so that we could be reunited with God the Father. His death would have been the victory of his enemies and the devil, but the Father had sent the Holy Spirit into Jesus’ dead body and in 3 days, he rose again and destroyed death forever for those who believe in Him. God turned what was intended for evil and destruction, into the saving grace for all!

The following link http://openairoutreach.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/does-man-inherit-a-sinful-nature-jesse-morrell/ gives a decent discussion on man’s inherent nature. I would like to stress the following and hence I quote…” Mankind is described as being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7). The Bible says that men are “made after the similitude of God” (Jas. 3:9), even after the fall of Adam. That is why when it comes to sin, the Bible says that sin is actually contrary to human nature (Rom. 1:26-27). God wanted mankind to imitate Him in choosing holiness (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26; Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). God did not design us to live wickedly. Therefore, sin is an abuse and misuse of our created constitution.

God did not intend or plan for us to use our mental, moral, spiritual, or physical abilities for sin. That is why the Bible says that sin is “against nature.” Sinners choose to do “that which is against nature.” Through the freedom of their will, they choose to do what is contrary to their design. It was never God’s intention for man to sin. It was not His plan for mankind to be sinful (Gen. 6:5-6; Matt. 25:41; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thes. 4:3). God actually would have preferred a sinless universe that needed no atonement at all (1 Sam. 15:22). Since sin was contrary to God’s plan or intention for mankind, God has made sin contrary to the design of our constitution.

God never intended for us to use our constitution for sin. On the contrary, He wants us to use our members for righteousness (Rom. 6:13, 19; Rom.12:1; 1 Thes. 4:3-4). Paul said, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour” (1 Thes. 4:3-4). Our constitution was not designed for sin, but sin is contrary to the intended use of our nature, because God is our designer.”

I hope this provides you with a satisfactory response. God bless you Edgar! Just as with His peace, you can either accept or reject God’s blessings.

p.s. – Andrew, don’t under estimate what God can do. And yes, I am just a lay person and I AM CATHOLIC! E-mail me if you want to dialogue further.”

In truth, I am praying that the dialogue is over.  I enjoyed sharing and teaching, but I’m tired.

May Father God open our spiritual eyes, ears and hearts so we can recognize Him when He speaks.  And may we spend time reading, reflecting and memorizing his living Word so that He can use them to guide us in our daily walk.

God bless,

Melissa – August 29, 2013

p.s. – My apologies. I believe the Catechism would have given a better explanation of original sin. (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p7.htm)

 

REFLECTION: Would you take a stand? (Part 1)

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

 

Two days ago, I came across an article that was posted on my Elementary School friend’s Facebook page.   Above the link was the caption “When one has a personal relationship with Jesus, self governance begins.”   The title of the article, Does Catholicism Make Us More Tolerant of Corruption? (http://joeam.com/2013/08/26/does-catholicism-make-us-more-tolerant-of-corruption) by itself, infuriated me.   The article pertained to the current political situation in the Philippines.

My attempts to dismiss my anger was futile and so I penned a comment…

“I question your claim that…
“I. LACK OF A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

Catholicism is fond of hierarchies and the use of intermediaries, unlike other religions which encourage direct communication with God.”

I am a practicing Catholic and I have a deep and intimate relationship with God the Father, Jesus His living Son, and the beautiful Holy Spirit. I would encourage you to do more research before making a general claim.

Do look into some of these links. I believe they will give you a different version of many Catholics who live their faith.

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/37/Personal_Relationship_to_Jesus_According_to_John_Paul_II.html

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/do-you-know-jesus

http://www.markmallett.com/blog/personal-relationship-with-jesus/

God bless you!”

The author replied, “@M.  Then good for you, if your personal relationship leads to behaviour consistent with the faith. But the goal of my essay was not to put forth an observation that will be consistent with 100% of all Catholics out there. For sure, there will be anecdotal exceptions like yours.

My goal was to find explanations for the corrupt behaviour of so many of our countrymen, many of whom are Catholics, and why is there so much divergence between their faith and their actions.

Besides, the teaching may be correct, but if it is misunderstood and misinterpreted by some of the laity, then there is a failure of cathecism.

I’d appreciate your views on the other points.”

I went to bed reflecting on his response and I asked the Father what he thought.  I also asked him not to let me try to figure this out in my dreams, less I wake up fatigued.

Today I penned…  “I’ve been reflecting on your response and on the correlation you have chosen. You may have a good point in identifying the numerous weaknesses of the past and present politicians; however, I still find it inappropriate to use the Catholic Church in your analogy. To me, it’s similar to realizing that a majority of the people who are corrupt have black hair and so you make the inference that all people with black hair are corrupt. Do you see what I mean?

I would assume that those in government positions who are corrupt are corrupt not because of what they claim to be in their faith walk, but because of who they are. Perhaps greed and self-centeredness prevail in their lives and they continue to pursue this ideal in their chosen careers. The fact that they claim to be Catholic is just by name rather than practice. As you may know (I’m assuming you are a Christian), Christianity is not a title, but a lifestyle.

You mention about purgatory and how these so called “Catholics” are choosing to use it to give them a chance to “get away” with the dirt they are engaged in now. Have you not heard that we are all called to walk through the narrow gate? Do you think these so called “Catholics” know what they are getting themselves into? They may think they can get away with things, but God sees what they are doing. They may think they can deceive God, but God sees the motives of man.

It is sad that many who are not walking in their Catholic faith continue to claim they are Catholics. Claiming a “title” or “identity” for oneself doesn’t have power in itself. It then just becomes a name. Little do they know they are deceiving themselves and others.  These name claimers are the very ones who destroy the purity of the Catholic faith.

I would suggest that you focus on the core source of the corruption rather than blaming it on the religion which some claim to follow.”

To this, the author replied…  ”Thanks for taking time to write a thoughtful reply.  I totally understand your points; it’s just so frustrating to see so much corruption and so much religiosity co-exist simultaneously here.

If the doctrines are correct, but the laity keeps on misinterpreting it, or chooses not to follow it, then to me, it is an indication of the ineffectiveness of the teaching. Some form of “personal scorecard” need to be implemented by the hierarchy to assess their effectiveness in teaching.”

Later on, I added…  ”Hi Andrew, I’m glad you’re beginning to see things a tad differently. Thought I should mention that those thoughts came through as a result of fervent prayer and by asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. As I continue to pray and reflect on your recent reply, I sense there are a few more things to add.

God has given man free will. He will not force anything on anyone, regardless of how wrong they are. He will send distractions and people to try to convince the wrong doers of their errs, but man is still left to exercise his free will. I do not believe it is the Church’s onus to force a “personal scorecard” on individuals, but it is personal conviction that is necessary so that each person holds himself/herself accountable for his/her actions.

Solutions do not rise when we put blame on others.  Instead. the latter merely brings other subject matters into the discussion, and the focus on the original problem is lost. I believe this was the point you brought up in your first reply.

Unfortunately, the title you chose for your thesis has stirred up resentment in others who don’t truly understand why they have a great dislike towards the Catholic Church. They may not read your article, but the title, in itself, was sufficient to fan the flame of their anger.

You may have become a little wiser because you have an open mind and you were willing to “listen”, but what about those who have hated the Church just because they heard others mutter against it. Their hatred grows.

Hatred and anger isn’t the solution. Openness and being willing to grasp truths rather than believing in “hearsay spread by others who claim to know the truth” brings about resolution.

While on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive his tormentors and he, himself, had claimed that they did not know what they were doing. I believe his tormentors thought they knew what they were doing, but Jesus, being God, saw the bigger picture. Likewise, we, too, need to forgive the individuals who have chosen to govern corruptly. However, it doesn’t end there. We are then asked to intercede and pray for those who govern so that they will be led by God’s wisdom and discernment. Man can’t accomplish much, but God can.

Let us join force and ask others to come together to pray for the healing of the land and its people. Let us pray for ourselves and ask God to allow us to make a difference. It can’t start elsewhere; it has to start with us. Let us ask God to give us the grace to rebuke and renounce greed and corruption and let us ask Him to heal the land.

I am reminded of the scripture…”if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The Filipino people cannot do it on their own, but with God, miracles will happen!

God bless you Andrew!”

I am currently still waiting to see if the author will reply.  In truth, his reply isn’t necessary.  As I read what I had written, I am awed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to fan my feathers.  I am awed over the fact that God is able to use a ditsy individual (me) to write with his great wisdom.  May God, alone, receive all the glory.

As I close, I sense God asking whether we have the courage to defend our faith?  Do we know enough to stand and defend it?  Or, are we merely name claimers, claiming the title of being a Catholic just so we can belong?

God bless,

Melissa – August 28, 2013

p.s.

Matthew 7:13 – 14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”