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Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-13-12

 
If you’re encountering trials today, today’s 60-second audio message should help you out.  The message of Saint James reminds us of the positive effect of trials in our lives and gives us advice for obtaining wisdom.  Have a BLESSED day!

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,
and he will be given it.
But he should ask in faith, not doubting,
for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,
since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:1-8)

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-13-12 (mp3)

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 5 (Losing Jesus)

 

Mary: “Where’s Jesus?”
Joseph: “I thought He was with you.”
Mary: “No, I thought He was with you.”
Joseph: “Well, He has to be around here somewhere, so let’s look.”
(Mother Angelica,  Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons From the Scriptures)

This humorous snippet of fictitious dialog reminds us that, despite being the parents of the Messiah, Mary and Joseph weren’t given a pass from the worries and difficulties faced by all parents.  When we look at the story of the Finding in the Temple, we can almost feel the helplessness experienced by Mary and Joseph.  Despite being chosen for a monumentally important role, they didn’t have all the answers.  In her discussion of this incident, Mother Angelica notes a very important point about Mary, “She was sinless, but she wasn’t Mrs. Omnipotent”.

Continuing our series on Mary’s words in the Bible, let’s look at one of the most confusing, yet most familiar, of Our Lady’s statements.  After looking for Jesus for three days, Mary and Joseph found Him teaching in the temple.  Scripture tells us that they were “astonished” and records the words spoken by our Blessed Mother:

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Sometimes we forget just how human Mary was.  Although she never sinned, she wasn’t blessed with the gift of omniscience.  On several occasions, the Bible tells us that Our Lady “pondered things in her heart”.  In other words, just like us, she often had to meditate in order to discern the Lord’s message.  Being the Mother of God didn’t exempt Mary from struggling to determine God’s will.  Rather than lash out or complain, Mary asked a simple question to Her Son…Why have you done this to us?  She was trying to obtain an answer, most likely fearing that she and Joseph had done something wrong.  The second part of her statement also communicates an important piece of information.  Mary and Joseph were searching for Jesus with great anxiety.

There are many ways that we can “lose” the presence of the Lord.  Although He will never leave us, we can use our free will to turn away from Him.  Those of us who have done this know the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that accompanies our disobedience.  In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “Souls who have lost God are really miserable and unhappy.  If Mary wept over the loss of her son for three days, how much more should sinners weep who have lost sanctifying grace?” Since Mary had never sinned, she didn’t know what it was like to lose God.  It’s quite possible that the Lord wanted Mary to experience this sense of loss so that she could be a better advocate for those who stray.  This experience of losing Him, the only way possible for one who never sinned, will help her to empathize with those who are lost and enable her to truly become the Refuge of Sinners.

After losing Jesus, Mary and Joseph searched for Him with great anxiety.  How do we respond when we “lose” Him in our own lives?  Is finding the Lord our number one priority?  Sadly, it is often not a priority at all.  According to Saint Augustine, “When they lose an ox they do not hesitate to go and look for it; when they lose a sheep, they leave no stone unturned to find it; when they lose a beast of burden, they cannot rest until they have discovered it; but when they lose God, who is the supreme Good, they eat, drink, and sleep as usual”.

As we meditate upon this sad episode in Our Lady’s life, let’s never forget that she knows what it’s like to be separated from Jesus and can help us to discover Him in our own lives.  Holy Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us.

“There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God’s grace by recourse to Mary, and by asking her assistance.” (Saint Bridget of Sweden)

 

 

 

 

 

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-9-12

 
Here’s my daily 60 second “anti-anxiety” message.  Today we focus on the Lord’s words from Luke 12:22-23.  Even though the Father knows that we need temporal goods (Luke 12:30), they shouldn’t be our MAIN focus.  By seeking first His Kingdom, these other things shall be ours as well (Luke 12:31).  God Bless You!
 
Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-9-12 (mp3)

Begging For Scraps

 

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”  Then He said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”  When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. (Mk 7:28-30)

While at Mass this morning, I was moved by the encounter from today’s gospel (Mk 7:24-30).  A Syrophoenician woman fell at the Lord’s feet, begging for a demon to be expelled from her daughter.  Jesus responded with a seemingly harsh comment that would have probably angered many of us, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  Unfazed, the kneeling woman then replied, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”  Jesus then healed her daughter BECAUSE of what she said.

May I always find myself like that woman, KNEELING before the Lord, HUMBLY accepting His response (even if I don’t like it) and PERSISTENTLY asking for the graces I need to get through the day and remain close to Him!

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-7-12

 
If you’re worried or anxious, spend 60 seconds and listen to this message. I bet you’ll feel better!
 
Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled! 2-7-12 (mp3)

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 3 (Submission)

 

As we continue with Part 3 of a 7-Part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, I’ll be taking a look at the final words of the Blessed Mother to the angel Gabriel.  Last time we focused on Mary’s declaration that she is the Lord’s handmaid (servant).  Essentially, Mary informed Gabriel that she considers herself to be the Lord’s servant.  Furthermore, as a sign that she fully accepts her mission to bring the Savior into the world, Mary adds the words:

“May it be done to me according to your word. ” (Luke 1:38)

A recap of the facts helps to illustrate the profundity of Mary’s statement.  She has just been informed that:

1. She will become the mother of the Son of God while being able to retain her virginity.

2. The virgin pregnancy and birth will come about through the action of the Holy Spirit.

3. Elizabeth (her elderly relative) is now six months pregnant.

4. All of this will happen because “nothing will be impossible for God”.

After hearing the details, most of us would have many more questions and would be begging the angel to stick around.  Mary, on the other hand, heard all that she needed to hear.  In fact, Gabriel’s final statement surely wasn’t news to Mary at all.  To someone with a strong faith, a belief that God can do all things is implied.  Contrasting Mary’s faith with my own faith is painful, but enlightening.  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t question the Lord’s ability to resolve some crisis in my life.  Although the angel’s words are right there in Scripture and they are etched in my memory, I need to get better at believing them.  As long as I’m comparing Mary with myself, there’s another really big difference. Mary didn’t even flinch at the fact that her pregnancy is going to be really difficult to explain to Joseph, her family and to just about all of her other relatives and friends.  That’s because she loved God with all of her heart and TRULY was His servant.  The fact that she was going to be inconvenienced didn’t matter to her.  She meant what she just said about being the Lord’s handmaid.  If He wanted her to do something, she would do it with no questions asked.  Is anyone else feeling really inadequate right now?

Each day, you and I are given the opportunity to say “yes” to God.  Like Mary, we are often asked to submit to His will without knowing all of the details.  Whether it’s being open to having additional children, pursuing a religious vocation or contributing more to charitable causes, the Lord often requests our consent.  Are we so concerned about the details or potential difficulties that we say “no thanks”?  Or, like the Blessed Mother, do we declare ourselves to be the Lord’s servants, trusting in His providence?

While discerning God’s will often requires prayer and meditation, sometimes it’s A LOT easier to discover.  By simply accepting those things that happen to us on a daily basis (at our jobs, in our families, when we become ill), we are saying “yes” to God and following His will.  When asked how to determine God’s will, Mother Angelica replied, “Honey, if it’s happening, it’s God’s will; and you have to correspond with it in the present moment”.  When unpleasant or painful events occur in our lives, we can complain or we can echo the words of Our Blessed Mother…

“May it be done to me according to your word. ”

“Mary was like a wheel which was easily turned by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Her only object in the world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to learn His will, and then to perform it.” (St. Bernardine of Siena)

Next Time: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

Let’s Take Mary Out Of Scripture!

Many people, Catholics included, struggle with Mary’s role in the Christian faith.  “She’s not that important!”, “I have Jesus, why do I need Mary?” and “You Catholics are a bunch of Mary-worshippers!” are some of the sentiments that are expressed rather frequently.  As a Cradle Catholic, I never had a problem with the Blessed Mother and accepted her being a part of my faith.  As I started to embrace my Catholicism more deeply, however, my confusion about Mary grew.  What exactly is her role?  Am I supposed to pray to Mary, Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, or all of the above?  I asked myself what I could do to help understand Mary’s role in my life.  Over time, I came to the conclusion that one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the role of the Blessed Mother is to take her out of the Bible and see what we have left.  What I discovered, and I hope you will as well, is that removing Mary from Scripture will leave gaping holes in our Catholic Faith and will help us to better appreciate her importance in our lives.

Let’s start by removing Mary from the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38), when the angel Gabriel asked her to become the mother of the Savior.  For starters, we wouldn’t have her great example of humility when the angel exclaimed, “Hail, full of grace”.  The fact that Mary was “greatly troubled” by this is a profound example of what it means to be humble.  My reaction would have probably been something like, “Thanks, Gabe… you know I try pretty hard.  Now, what can I do for you?”.  By looking at Mary’s reaction, we are reminded of how often we feel a little too proud about our good works.  We forget that anything good in us is due to God’s grace.  Continuing on, how about Mary’s response to the shocking and mysterious mission of becoming the mother of the Savior?  Oh, I forgot, Gabriel did provide the details…”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35).  Crystal clear, right?  Mary is engaged to Joseph and has just been told that she will become pregnant with the Savior of the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Her response?  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)  Are you kidding me?  Who has faith like that?  Mary does, and if you take her out of that scene, you also take away the example that motivates and guides me every day of my life.  Mary had the ability to trust God even when it didn’t make sense.  That’s the kind of example that I need!  Oh, I almost forgot, if Mary isn’t there to say “yes” to God’s request (as delivered by the angel), we might still be waiting for Our Savior.  That means, if you or I died today, we could have to wait thousands of years before the gates of Heaven were opened by Jesus.  Because Mary did exist and did say “yes”, however, we can die today and potentially go directly to Heaven.  That’s a comforting thought!

Let’s move on to the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11).  In his narrative of this event, St. John highlights the fact that “the mother of Jesus was there” and then adds that “Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with His disciples”.  Why did he give Mary “top billing”?  Surely, Jesus is the star of this show, isn’t He?  In order to find out, let’s remove Mary and see what happens.  If Mary was not in attendance, Jesus and His disciples would still be there and the wine would still run out.  Since Mary was the one that informed Jesus that “they have no wine”, we can’t assume that someone else would bring it to His attention.  More importantly, we would lose one of the most powerful and effective examples of intercessory prayer ever recorded.  Through this simple example, we are reminded that Our Blessed Mother is watching over us and is always ready to present our needs directly to her Son.  As in this case, she often does this without even being asked.  Following this, in her last recorded words in Sacred Scripture, Mary gives us advice that (if followed) is guaranteed to get us to Heaven…”Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2: 5).  Finally, at the request of Mary, Jesus performs His first miracle.  The water is turned into wine (not just any wine, but even better wine!) and the day is saved.  If we take Mary out of the story we have no example of intercessory prayer, no command to follow Jesus’ teachings and quite possibly no first miracle.  That’s a big void, wouldn’t you agree?

Finally, let’s journey to that fateful day on Calvary when Our Lord gave His life for our salvation (Jn 18-19).  Sadly, just about all of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him in His hour of need.  Mary, however, was there “standing by the Cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25).  How’s that for an example of being a follower of Christ, even when it’s difficult?  Mary’s constancy inspires us to persevere in our faith, even when we encounter suffering and difficulties.  By taking her out of this scene, there goes one of best examples of faith that you’ll ever see.  Continuing on, in one of His final acts before dying on the Cross, Jesus addressed His mother by saying, “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26).  Turning to St. John, Our Lord exclaimed, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27).  Can you imagine the effort it must have taken for Our Lord to say these words while nailed to a cross?  Was it just some meaningless chatter thrown in by John to pad the story a bit?  Hardly!  It has always been the teaching of the Church that John represents ALL beloved disciples, thereby allowing us to share in the gift of Mary as our mother.  No Mary, no Heavenly mother for us.  Considering all that our Blessed Mother does to help us get closer to Christ, that would be a BIG loss!

There are other examples in the Bible that allow us to see the importance of Mary’s role in the life of a Catholic.  Removing her from the Visitation (Lk 1:39-56), the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-20), the Presentation in the temple (Lk 2:22-38) or praying with the Apostles (Acts 1:14) helps to illustrate her importance.  Thankfully, we did AND DO have Mary.  She is our mother and  mediatrix and, because of her cooperation, Our Savior came into the world.  If she doesn’t play a big part in your spiritual life, I urge to open the Bible to all of Mary’s appearances, pretend she wasn’t there, and meditate on what’s missing.  I’m sure you’ll discover that “what’s missing” is the person that you need to help you grow closer to Jesus…Our Blessed Mother, Mary!

Faith and Revelation: Scott Hahn, Scripture and Substance!

So You Wanna Learn About Scripture?

In my opinion, one of the best books that you can read is Faith and Revelation (Knowing God Through Sacred Scripture) written by Dr. Scott Hahn (copyright 2009, Midwest Theological Forum) and edited by Fr. James Socias.  Part of the Didache Semester Series, this volume delivers the same solid Catholic teaching that can be found in the other books of this series.  As stated on the back cover, the goal of the Didache Series is “to present the basic doctrinal, scriptural, moral, and sacramental tenets of the Catholic Church in a manner that is both comprehensive and accessible.”  In my mind, they accomplish that goal in a BIG way!

Some of the book’s positives are:

– Scott Hahn is the author (Do you really need other reasons for a book about Scripture?)
– A beautiful design with color reproductions of religious artwork throughout.
– Lots of substance (multiple citations from the Catechism and Church Council documents plus numerous quotes from the Church Fathers).
– Material is presented in an easy to understand manner.

Although designed to be a high school text book (spanning one academic semester), I would recommend this book to any adult who desires to learn more about the Bible, from a Catholic perspective.  The biggest mistake that Catholics often make when reading Scripture is to read it “in a vacuum”, ignoring the fact that the Catholic Church actually compiled the books of the Bible.  Faith and Revelation rectifies that mistake, by giving you Biblical insight combined with solid Catholic teaching.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this preview to see for yourself!

For more information or to order, visit the MTF website.

Catholicism Rule Of Thumb: The Message Is More Important Than The Messenger!

Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?  What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul?  Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.  Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.  The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor.  (1 Cor 3:4-8)

Those of us who constantly try to learn more about Catholicism generally have our “favorite” sources.  We have our favorite authors, priests, websites, devotions and even Saints!  Some speakers inspire us while others “bore us to tears”.  What works for one person often doesn’t work for someone else.  While there’s nothing wrong with favoring certain sources, we want to be sure that we’re following the message and not just the messenger.  

As evidenced by the above Scripture passage, this problem is nothing new.  St. Paul is reminding the Corinthians that, although he and Apollos are preaching the “Good News”,  it is actually God who is doing the work.  He was attempting to prevent the people from becoming followers of human messengers and encouraging them to focus on the message of Jesus Christ.

What’s the harm in having a favorite Catholic preacher, you might ask?  Usually nothing, as long as we keep things in their proper perspective.  If we start to focus more on the messenger than the message, however, there could be negative consequences.  What happens if our favorite speaker starts to depart from Church teaching and veers too far to the right or too far to the left?  How about if that person is involved in a public scandal?  What do we do when our beloved parish priest gets transferred?  If we’re not careful, becoming too attached to one person could do serious damage to our faith.

What’s the solution?  Simply to remember that God uses many fallible instruments to accomplish his work.  Try to avoid putting any minister, no matter how holy they seem, on a pedestal.  Focusing too much much on the messenger can cause us to miss the Lord’s message.  Some prefer Scott Hahn, others like Father Mitch Pacwa and some are inspired by listening to their parish priest.  The important thing to remember is that they’re all presenting the “Good News” of Jesus Christ…

and that’s what REALLY matters!

The Bible Verse That Every Lukewarm Catholic Should Read…

If I had to describe my Catholic faith for most of my life, one word comes to mind…

LUKEWARM!

Even though I’ve always been a “practicing” Catholic, most of my life was spent simply going through the motions.  Although I would go to Mass each week, my mind was on the “important” things that I had to do when I got out of Church.  After receiving the Lord in Holy Communion, I would look around, daydream and think about what I should have for lunch.  I’d grab my bulletin and head for my car, happy that I fulfilled my duty as a Catholic and even happier that I wouldn’t have to go again for another week! 

In 2005, a health scare caused me to abandon my uncaring ways and start caring about my faith in a BIG way!  As someone who finally realizes the treasure we have in the Catholic Church, I have dedicated my life to sharing the “Good News” with as many people as possible.  While I fully believe that the Lord used my illness to get my attention, I wonder how long He was actually calling me before I finally listened? 

While I can’t guarantee that it would have brought about my reversion sooner, I believe that the following Bible verse may done the trick.  It should get the attention of every lukewarm Catholic.  I don’t know how the Lord could be any more blunt with His message.  It’s a message that is directed to anyone who doesn’t care that they don’t know more about their Catholic faith.  It’s a message that just may have gotten me to “wake up” several years ago.  It’s a message you should share with any lukewarm Catholics you care about…

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  (Revelation 3:15-16)