Category: Faith


Spiritual But Not Religious, Really?

I meet so many young adults who are “spiritual but not religious.” What does that mean? It is like saying I love coffee but I don’t drink it. I love to experience nature but I don’t leave my house. I love God….but I can’t imagine actually going to church and worshiping him.

What we keep in our heads ONLY, what we keep in our hearts ONLY, what we keep private and between me and Jesus ONLY; is NOT faith at all. It is laziness. Sound harsh? It may be.  But let me put something out there for you to think about.

Faith requires action!

God is faithful. God is always at work in his creation and with his children. ALWAYS! What’s our problem? If God kept his faith to himself, it would be a very bleak and dark world.

Faith requires action!

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:14-18)

Spiritual but not religious is a cop out.

Our world is degrading morally at an increasing rate. Imagine if those who claim to be Christian actually lived their faith out loud, fed the poor, clothed the naked, spoke openly with love about Jesus Christ, shared how God works in their lives AND worshiped together weekly.

Imagine!

Listening to Christian songs, getting a big tattoo of a cross on your body, claiming Christianity without actually living Christianity is one thing. Doing Christianity is quite another. Its messy. It requires an integrity of word and deed, it requires courage in the face of a world that screams “keep it to yourself!”

The world will change for the better when we Christians are authentically following Christ. When we are not hypocrites and privately hiding Jesus from the world. Nine out of ten couples I meet do not even pray together. They don’t talk about their faith to each other, they don’t practice their faith.

Lent is a great time to practice that faith you have forgotten about, ignored or hidden away. If you only know a little bit ABOUT Jesus, but you don’t KNOW Jesus it may be more difficult. Prayer is a great place to begin.

God is always listening, always reaching out to us, always waiting to have a relationship with each of us. Simply say, “God, I want you to come and wrap your love around me. I want you to show me who you are, what your plans are for me, and the wonderful relationship we can have together.” That’s all. Say it everyday. Heck, say it a hundred times a day!

Your life will begin to change in a wonderfully surprising way. I promise. Be diligent, hopeful, expectant! This great little clip speaks more about prayer in context of the mass and how you can begin to live that faith out loud with others.

 

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Peace, Is It Possible

Today I am away from all my usual craziness and in my own little corner of paradise which makes this time so sweet.

I believe with all my heart  that God wishes to pour his peace on us. It couldn’t have been more evident than when we read the account after the resurrection when Christ first appeared to his disciples in the locked upper room, “Peace be with you.” He didn’t reprimand the disciples for abandoning him or denying him. He just breathed on them and wished them his peace. Wow! That is so unlike any human response I might give in the same situation. Jesus goes on further to say, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reminds us again, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

Is there a reoccurring message there we might need to hear?

It is very possible to have an inner peace where it is still, and calm. This is the peace Christ wishes to extend to us. Fr. Jacques Philippe gives us this example, “In order to understand this we can use an image that can be illuminating. Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of a lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly it will be reflected. If on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, undulating, then the image of the sun can not be reflected in it. It is like this with our soul in relationship to God. The more our soul is peaceful and tranquil, the more God is reflected in it…the more his grace acts through us.”

This imagery makes total sense. We have all seen this.

God’s Word is meant to be for us a source of strength, encouragement, recollection, hope, inspiration, education, and empowerment…need I go on?

Do we “feed” on the Word of God to mine all the treasures God has planted there for us to discover and rediscover?

Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel writes, “…we do not know the great heights at which our holiness lies… we shouldn’t try and hold back this sort of free-fall of the Word into our depths.”

Free-fall? That evokes both sheer terror and sheer exhilaration at the same time. That however, is what we need to do. We need to jump, let go, and freely unreservedly give ourselves over to God who desires to do amazing things with our lives.

What are we afraid of?

Why won’t we let go?

These are questions we must ponder and ask ourselves?

Do we believe and trust God?

Do we live in the fear of what if?

God’s open palms are right there to catch us. Do we believe that?

Will we consent to be the great saint God imagined in us? Are we willing to persevere in the difficult but immensely gratifying work of the Kingdom? Glory, honor, great joy and peace beyond all telling is there waiting for our yes.

Love Creates

At least one hundred times or more I’ve said, “We are created by Love for love.” While I would love to take credit for such a simple yet profound statement I would be lying and taking credit for someone else’s inspiration.

Caryll Houselander, a deceased  British mystic and poet writes this, “The meaning of Creation is love; God created for love, and what he created is love.” There is so much packed into that short statement it is mind-boggling.

God doesn’t need us.

We were created out of the very heart of Love itself. Incredible when you ponder that. I was loved into being. I was conceived in the mind of Love before I ever came to be. I am wanted, worthy, dignified, precious and priceless.

Guess what? So is each and every one of us.

Yes, even the annoying, the creepers, weirdos, and green-haired people.

Creation is here for us. It is God’s gift. It wasn’t an accident or afterthought or randomly occurring cosmic event with no purpose or meaning. Everything God does has meaning and intention. He doesn’t abandon us to prod around in blind desolation, ceaselessly wondering about the point of our origin with no answer to be found. How cruel would that be?

The answers are all around us. The Artist has left his signature everywhere. In all times and places, in every single face, old and young, lost and confused, painted and twisted. It’s like He is shouting in a whisper barely audible “I Am.”

I Am in your laughter. I Am in the quiet breeze. I Am in a newborns cry and the dying sigh of the seemingly abandoned soul. I Am infused in every cell of your being, every thought you think, every word you speak. I Am! Why do you look in all the wrong places? Why do you remain in darkness? Why do you not feel or notice or care? Why?

I long to tell you of My love. I long to wrap you in Love’s warm embrace, to protect and lead you on road’s never taken. To show you My plan’s for your life, everything I imagined for you if you would but ask, and trust, and let go and let Me guide you.

God doesn’t need the warmth of the sun, water to refresh or wine to soothe His weary soul. God doesn’t require the night to repose, bread to satiate, oxygen to gasp and fill His lungs.

Love created these things for us to enjoy and relish in. How thoughtful, how kind, how utterly generous. A disinterested gift, bestowed on humanity out of His boundless depths. God literally says, “See this lily? I created it just for you”. You were on my mind when I formed the islands, how I knew you would laugh and play on its beaches and take your respite there under this very tree. And God smiled to Himself at the thought of you there.

And chocolate, yes, He thought of me. How many times I would taste and savor and squeal with joy. That made Him smile to Himself at the pure unadulterated pleasure it brings me.

So thank you, Amazing Love.

Thank you for it all. For what I have been blessed to experience thus far; the good and the bad. It has made me who I am and who I will become as the days go by, and the wrinkles increase and my pace slows, and my mind goes.

May I never, never forget Your Love. So as You willed it from the beginning, we may one day be together for all time, and share all the stories You want to tell me and remind me of all the things I never saw or noticed or paid any attention to. You were there in everything just watching and loving me all along.

Emmaus Explored

“What are you discussing as you walk along?” Jesus asks the disciples heading to the village of Emmaus. “Looking downcast,” they related the events of the last few days involving Jesus. Their eyes were prevented from seeing it was Jesus Himself to whom they were speaking.

I have wondered over the years why they were so quick to leave the city. These were disciples after all, who had followed Jesus for sometime. They had even heard that very morning that some women of their group “reported seeing a vision of angels who announced that He was alive.”  Yet they depart the city, downcast.

Why did they give up so quickly?

Jesus was right to rebuke them with these words, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”

With the benefit of 2000 plus years of hindsight one would think we would be so much wiser today. One would assume with our superior forward thinking modern minds we would be so much better off today with the perspective of lapsed time. We should be loving each other, holding each life in unsurpassed dignity and worth. We should be sharing and caring and peaceable by now.

Have we too, wondered out of town and out of the proximity of Love? Do we look downcast because after 2000 years it isn’t much better. Our brutality and lust for power, wealth and pleasure grows like a darkness sweeping the nation. We think in terms of “me instead of we” as we cut people off while driving, in line and in church parking lots. Untold unnecessary victims of murder by choice through abortion, continue to grow because I trumps we.

What is going on? What is needed to push back the darkness?

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, “this episode [Emmaus] points out to us two special “places” where we can encounter the Risen One who transforms our life: listening to His Word, in communion with Christ, and in the breaking of the bread; two “places” profoundly united with each other because the Word and the Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other; the Word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist.”

Christ is alive. He is risen and can banish the darkness of our lives both individually and communally. He did not abandon us to work it out by ourselves thousands of years later. He left us Himself, in the Word and in the Eucharist. Not a symbol, not a memory, not a feel good bread and grape juice affair NO! In the reading of his Word, in the breaking of His Body. Each and every day, all over the planet, in every Catholic Church. This is where you will find the Church Christ left behind- His Church, His Body Present in every tabernacle around the world. Come and eat, “this is my body” broken and given for you.

Nothing else will do. Come to THE Meal where the “Bread of life comes down from heaven” that we may live forever.

“Faith in him transforms our life, frees it from fear, gives it firm hope, enlivens it with God’s love which gives full meaning to existence.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

And dare I add, banishes the darkness, springs forth everlasting joy and fills us with the strength, graces and virtues we need to persevere until the end.

He is risen Alleluia!

Everything Points to Something

Everywhere we look there are signs. They point us to destinations, tell us when to use caution, where to go to find something, seek help and so on.

What are the signs we find at this time of the year? The weather has changed, the leaves have fallen, brilliant light displays are everywhere, the stores are jammed, sales are shouted from the radio and plastered all over the papers. People are rushing around just a little more than usual, driving a little more erratic, less courteous than ever. There is an urgency that I detect, but for what?

As Catholic Christians, we sense that something bigger is at stake here in the hustle and bustle. It isn’t just about gift buying, cookie making and wrapped presents. There is an event that looms ahead in a few short weeks that begins again, renews and reminds us that Immanuel God is coming. He hasn’t forgotten us, and comes to us as an innocent child ready to take on the world and all that disturbs it.

At this time of the year, I love listening to Point of Grace, A Christmas Story. When Love Came Down starts off the playlist and reminds us that it is Love that came at Christmas. What we need to combat the chaos is Love. It is God’s love that transforms hate into love, despair into hope, pain and hurt into meaning.

It is one of my favorite Christmas albums it puts everything into perspective and prepares the path for the coming of Love into the world. The whole Cd is a beautiful journey through what matters most at this time of the year…and to be lived throughout the whole year.

Amy Grant is still the all-time favorite for Breath of Heaven and a beautiful reflection that is so appropriate for this Feast of the Immaculate Conception. What must it have been like, a young woman to whom Gabriel appeared, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and be called Son of the Most High…” (Luke 1:28-32)

Let us ponder and reflect this day of the gift that Mary too brought to the world, Her fiat set salvation in motion. Her yes is a model for us. At God’s request we too can say yes to all that He asks; most especially today in the midst of the turmoil, materialism, and selfishness that pervades our world.

What yes will we consent to in our own lives to bring light to the darkness?

Our consent to God’s will can transform our hearts, our families, and our world if we but humbly, willingly surrender our lives to God?

In imitation of our Blessed Mother, say yes, and let God make a miracle out of our life.

Advent Begins

This is my 54th Advent and it never gets old. It is a time for me to anticipate, renew, and realize the reality of Christ making “all things new.”

No matter how awful life can get from time to time, no matter how frustrated and seemingly hopeless we let ourselves become on those rare occasions, Advent is always a great time to rethink and recharge.

At our parish we start the liturgy in low lights, My Soul in Stillness Waits begins as someone walks down the aisle-lit candle in hand, processing towards the waiting wreath. Tonight I held the only light, a solitary figure-slowly, deliberately, carefully I made my way to the halo of evergreen. It was almost magical to be there to light the first purple candle that starts the season of Advent.

So how will I wait? How will I prepare? How will I expectantly ready myself for the coming of the Savior?

Things to ponder no doubt.

This I know, it is a time for each of us to examine our lives. What have we done with the time we have been given thus far? How have we multiplied the talents we were gifted with- have we made more, engaged ourselves for the betterment of humanity, or sadly just buried them?

“Life is short and we are dead a very long time” (Matthew Kelly) What will we do to begin anew this Advent 2013 as we move one step closer to the end of our days? What preparations have we made for the ever after by living and loving in the here and now?

Pouring Ourselves Out

Trying to come up with an intentional and authentic name for a blog is challenging. It needs to encompass a bit of who we are, and inviting enough for further readership outside of ones own loving mother. I ended up choosing; Poured Myself Out In Gift. It is not something mind-blowing to be sure, or exclusively up  to me, but something we are ALL called to do.

Each day, each moment, each breath we are called to give ourselves for the good of others and the glory of God.

Ephesians 1:11-12 reminds us, “In him we were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things, according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”

“For the praise of his glory…” That line really sticks with me. How can we add anything to God?

Well, the short answer is we cannot. But through our lives, our love, our gift of our self- we can draw others to God, to show them his glory and goodness. All things are from God. The good, the beautiful, the true, the trials, and the sufferings.

We have to remember that this life is only the journey, but the journey that spans our lifetime and directs where we will end up for eternity. This is the proving grounds, the testing and the purifying of our souls to ready us for eternal joy and infinite love poured out from God.

Everything in this life is an opportunity to stretch our hearts to prepare them for more. More what? More of God’s love in heaven.

One of the ways we are stretched the most is through trials and suffering. Seems like crazy talk, I know. However it is the true and time tested way that works on human hearts. We are a tough lot. We have hard heads, proud hearts, stubborn wills. We want what we want, when we want it, and exactly how we prayed for it. We don’t like to settle for anything less than that. When God doesn’t deliver like a vending machine we doubt his love, we question his abilities and his care for us and we often reject him and go our own direction. Yet, God loves us so, and is unwilling to leave us there poking around in the darkness of our sin and stubbornness. He knows the best way for us to get to heaven and that involves the “S” word that we loathe the most…suffering.

Why does it have to be that way? “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32) Not even Jesus was free from suffering. Not the Blessed Virgin and not us. There is purifying power in suffering and trials. These are opportunities that stretch our hearts better than anything else. Opportunities that allow for a greater capacity to accept more of God’s remarkable abundant love and goodness.

In my own life, I can look back and see that the things that hurt the absolute most were the times that I grew closer to God, prayed harder, and trusted more. They were times that stretched my heart beyond the tiny confines that I kept it safe within my chest. At the time, all I knew was pain. Physical and mental. I questioned God, I begged for answers, I was wrought in confusion. Why me? Why this? Why? At the time, I felt that I shed more tears than the ocean could hold and I know I am not finished because my life is not complete.

Stretching hurts. Pruning is uncomfortable and we feel so out of control of the situation. But that is okay. I have found that it gives us the chance to let go of the reins and hand them over to God where they belonged all along. Surrendering takes practice and the good news is that God will give us more opportunities than we want, and all the opportunities that we need.

We limit ourselves so much. Our love is stingy, we trust haltingly, and our faith is conditional. Conditional on what? On getting our way.

So what I am attempting to practice this second half of my life is to let go every chance I get. It isn’t easy, it isn’t pretty and I play tug of war with God all the time…but I am trying each day to be better at trusting and letting go.

God knows exactly what it will take to make the key that opens the door to heaven for me, and for each one of us. We need to be pliable material to let him craft us into his image, day by day and moment by moment. Let him do the work he needs to do with us. Accept the cross, as Christ his only Son did, as Mary the Blessed Mother did, pondering all the while but obedient, docile and humble.  Whining is ugly and unbecoming. The determination they displayed is an example for each one of us to follow. That narrow road is treacherous, but we are not alone and following the most famous saints in history. We can do this, we want to do this, our eternal souls need us to do this.

I really can’t remember the last time that a homily made me squirm in my seat and cast a downward glance at being convicted of my sinfulness. I can’t call to mind ever leaving mass with a zeal and fiery passion to go make a difference that was so hot I wanted to jump in the Baptismal font just to cool off.

I don’t mean to be facetious.

Let me state first off, that it is my deepest desire to go to heaven.

However, I am human, a sinner, and in desperate need of unabridged, pure, uncensored truth. As such I long to be inspired, motivated, incriminated, and called to redemption. I need the gentle and sometimes not so gentle guidance, of the shepherd’s staff to direct and keep me on the narrow path. I hunger for Scripture to be opened up and made relevant, as well as doctrine and dogma to enlighten my mind and direct my footsteps. Father Barron says that “too often the dogmas and doctrines of the Church are presented in such an abstract and disembodied way that their transformative power is largely overlooked.”

I have sat there in talks and been preached at in pews, as the speaker danced and side stepped around any word or phrase that has the potential to offend me in some unintended way. I once heard a Deacon preach on Ephesians 5:22, by literally apologizing his way through the entire sermon leaving the whole congregation totally befuddled and perplexed.

Why are so many fearful to save our souls but doing back flips not to offend our puny egos?

I want to learn, to grow, to be provoked to change my habitual tendency to sin. I want the leadership in our Church to be the shepherds God appointed them to be and to do whatever it takes to bring their congregations to heaven. Teach us, arouse our curiosity about all things God, wake us out of our long slumber and lethargy.

Why are so many Catholics leaving the Church? I dare say it has more to do with being lulled into a coma instead of rallied for battle-a spiritual battle with eternal consequences. Shame on us all, if anyone ever leaves the Church. For it is in her loving arms that we find Christ Crucified, Christ Risen and Christ Present in every Tabernacle and at every Mass.

But how do we know this when we only hear marshmallow sermons and get gumdrop catechesis?

Is what we hear worth dying for? The early Christian martyrs were willing to be fed to lions, skinned alive, and tortured to death for the truth that we today are so afraid of speaking because someone might look at us sideways.

What will it take to turn things around I wonder? How long will God be patient with us as we cycle back into widespread apathy and prevalent disobedience fueled by subjective relativistic banter? What can each of us do as laity to lift up, encourage, and rekindle fire in the hearts of believers? How can we speak to our priests and catechetical leaders and call them to be catalysts striving to set humanity on fire with the winds of the Word and the Magisterium as the fuel which ignites the flames?

I don’t want to hear any more personal theologies, inclusive language, and whack ideologies. I really don’t care what your opinion is either. Give me the truth, give me the facts, and get out of the way and let God pierce me to the marrow.

Personally I am at wits end.

I have been blessed on occasion to hear some of the great voices of our time and I lapped up the truth like a thirsty man at a spring. I can’t get enough, I want more, I want to dive in head first and swim in the waters of knowledge drinking up every last droplet. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know anything at all and yet, I crave all the more to taste the Infinite God.

We are fat, and our teeth are rotten.

Stop feeding us junk, and reintroduce us to a good old fashioned fire and brimstone, keep us out of hell sermon, that has the power to transform us into a people willing to go the distance; even if it means being the main course in the lion’s den.

Prayer, Faith, Hope and Love

“Faith and hope are given to us in prayer. So without prayer, we are unable to love.” (S.O.G. Madeline Delbrel)

I never thought of it in this way and yet I know it to be true. When we pray we tap into the single greatest source of hope- the Lord. Our faith might be a step into the unknown, but not the Unknowable.

We know God, we really do deep inside. We came from Love itself, our hearts know this at their very center. We march through this world day in and day out, searching, yearning, filled with desire… an insatiable desire to taste again that supreme Love.

We can’t re-cognize something we don’t know, but only something we have known before. We know it when we feel it, sense it, experience it again. It is Divine Truth, Divine Love, an experience that cuts to our very center and we KNOW unequivocally and recognize it.

Prayer is the pathway. It is the reaching out, the step forward, the new breath. “Speak oh Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:9)

Like a spider waits on the web, attentive and sensitive to even the slightest movement, we too must be to the whisper that our Lord may wish to impart to us in prayer.

“It is our faith and hope, growing through prayer, that remove the obstacle that most blocks the road of our love; namely, a concern for ourselves” (Delbrel)

Faith then, I believe, is a surrender of myself, a letting go, a falling back into the waiting arms of my beloved Lord. A free fall in the truest sense of the word. A free fall into the safety of the hands of the One who will never let go, never leave, and never give up on us…even when we give up on ourselves and Him.

Trust that Divine Love awaits, thirsts for you, pines for you and desires to be in conversation and relationship with you. This is our hope, our faith, and ultimately our prayer.

Let the Fire Fall

“Just about the worst thing we can do with Jesus is to domesticate him, to turn him into a nice, harmless figure, simply a teller of tales and wise spiritual teacher. He announces himself as an arsonist: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” ~ Fr. Robert Barron

Why do we humans settle for “lukewarm” when it comes to faith?

I see people on game days dressing up in jerseys and sporting team colors, spending countless hours and dollars on following a team and when it comes to faith or participation at mass can barely utter an audible AMEN.

I see people spending millions of dollars on the latest clothing trends and for church they look like they have barely given more than a seconds attention to what they wear to God’s house.

What was Christ talking about when he stated His desire that we were already blazing? Do we possess a single heart for Him? Do our hearts burn with love? Do they have the ability to set the world afire?

What images arise in your mind when you hear these words of Christ?

Regret? Anger? Disappointment? Passion? Energy?

For myself; all of the above.

Regret, that it isn’t happening already and it is 2000+ years later.

Anger, that we let temporal things get in the way of the eternal realities, and are easily distracted, defeated, and discouraged.

Disappointment, because we lack focused discipline and determination for the things of God.

Passion and Energy, for all the wrong things; diets, politics, sports, material things, excessive exercise, gastronomy, celebrities, clothing, shoes; need I go on?

So what will it take to transform our hearts, refocus our lives, and realign our priorities? God knows a little secret that has worked for as long as humans have walked the planet; suffering.

Nothing gets our attention like pain. It seems to cut through all the BS and get right to the heart of the matter. We tend to look up when there is no relief in sight. We tend to bend the knee when answers are not forth coming. We tend to bow our heads and surrender our wills when we have no one else to turn to.

Yes, God knows what it takes to get our attention. What we have to remember is that it is not out of spite or malice but out of love. Suffering can purify and cleanse away impurities. It can help us detach from harmful habits and unhealthy attachments to earthly things and more importantly it can assist us making the necessary adjustments to fire up the furnace of love.

Let us beg for the fire of the Holy Spirit to fall on humanity and set our hearts on fire for Christ– a transforming fire, a fire of love… a cleansing fire that purifies hearts and souls!! Come Holy Spirit come, set us a blaze!