Religious Spin Artists

Did religious spin artists exist back in Jesus’ time?  My parish (St. Rose) handed out a gift recently on Ash Wednesday. “Not By Bread Alone 2017 – Daily Reflections for Lent”  What a wonderful gift! These reflections were written by Genevieve Glen, OSB.

Before we begin, did you know Genevieve Glen happens to be one of the great hymn writers of our time?  She is a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of St. Walburga in Colorado.

First, Matthew 23: 1-12 was the source for Glen’s reflection today (today’s Gospel).  Glen wrote “Jesus challenges us to take a new look at “scribes and Pharisees.”  Glen called them “religious spin artists then and now.”   Additionally, she pointed out “…all their works are performed to be seen.

Furthermore, I believe the principle behind the message from Jesus is still current today: For some folks (sadly), image IS everything.  Do you know people who “wear” their faith?  Customers at our lonely store ask us about wearing rosaries. Crucifixes as fashion statements? Or always wearing over-sized religious jewelry?

Glen asks incisively: Do folks wear this stuff to convince others — or to convince themselves they are worthy of God’s love? Good question!  

Finally, in the verse BEFORE the Gospel today, we may have the answer.  It read “Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD.  And make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”

Look, it doesn’t matter what you were (or what you wore?).  It matters what you ARE, and what you aim to be, from this day forward.

Who Are You When Nobody is Watching?

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Peter asked Jesus if this was directed at the apostles, or was that message meant for the entire crowd?
The message Jesus gave to Peter was (essentially), don’t be a slacker! You have to be prepared, because you don’t know the day when we will be called.

I’ve heard it said the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching. I think this is very true. So who are you when nobody is watching? I like to keep this thought in my mind throughout my day as a reminder, but I digress. I think that message of character applies here as well. Jesus is telling us, through parables, that we can’t just “act the part” at the end. It’s not enough to stand up straight and look ready when the master appears — that will be too late. You need to be ready and doing what is right ALL the time.

The parable ends with a mightier message: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” We interpret that to mean, God expects ALL of us to lead good lives and follow his commandments. But even more will be demanded of the leaders.

Who is a leader? In the church, we have the priests, bishops, deacons, as well as other members of the church leadership. And on a higher level of the church here on earth, we have the cardinals and the pope. But even on the lowest level, Jesus is referring to anyone who might be (or could be) a role model: parents, teachers, leaders in the community.

Keep in mind, we go to church to give praise to God and participate in the Eucharist. But when mass is over, WE become the church. It is our mission to carry. Who are you when nobody is watching? I think we should all strive to be as hardworking and faithful as possible at all times. That would be a good start. You need to be ready and doing what is right ALL the time, not just when it’s convenient or when it’s comfortable to.

It’s important to remember we can’t just be slackers, and show up on the last day expecting a ticket to the show. We have to earn our way in.

Defining Vigilance: What Does It Mean to You?

Have you ever stayed up into the night to care for someone in your family who was ill? Or, if you are a parent, have you stayed up late, waiting for a child to arrive home safely?

Vigilance is defined as the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. Defining vigilance personally can lead us to different meanings of the word.

What’s that over-riding feeling you have at those moments? When your parent’s fever spikes to 101, or your baby won’t stop coughing? I just want my loved one to be safe, I don’t want them to be harmed in any way.

I know, personally, as a parent, I’ve actually stood by the window waiting to see that pair of headlights to come down our street, late at night. You just want your children to get home safely, even if it is a half-hour beyond the time you wanted them home from a party.

It’s a nervous emotion, this feeling of vigilance. You need to be prepared.
And that’s what Jesus meant in the message today from Luke:

“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

Jesus then goes on to add that the master will then wait on THEM, those who are vigilant. Indeed, even if the Master arrives in the second or third watch (meaning, later in the night), those who are vigilant, ready and prepared, will be rewarded.

What is the meaning behind the message? Is it to prepare for the end of the world? No. My understanding is first, there is no timetable for His return (it could be in the second or third watch — later than you want!). Regardless, you must remain prepared every day to ward off temptation. You must be ready and prepared to avoid the evil that exists in the world, to continue to persevere in your belief in God and the Holy Family. When personally defining vigilance, that is my definition.

How would you define vigilance, in your words?

The Devil Attacks Us Through Greed and Fear

 

Saint Augustine said the devil attacks us through fear and greed.

Saint Augustine said the devil attacks us through fear and greed.

Saint Augustine said the devil attacks us through greed and fear. When we don’t have possessions we pursue them (with greed). Yet, when we have accumulated possessions, we choke on the fear of losing them.

Throughout our lives, we often form these mental impressions that the devil is “personified” taking the form of a person. But yet the devil’s work can be found when we exercise feelings like greed. But fear as well can be an overwhelming feeling, and can be the work of the devil.

As human beings, we become weak and open to the worries that come along with fear. Those fear-driven decisions can often wind up being disasters. Isn’t worrying about what others may say, or what others may think always driven by fear? Why do we worry about things we cannot control?

We’ve all heard greed is the root of evil — because greed blocks our view (our path) to charity. On the flip side, charity is the root of all that is good.

Jesus told this parable:

“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’

And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’

But God said to him,‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Greed really IS a silly vice, and Saint Augustine was correct the devil attacks us through greed and fear. When the time comes, as your life here on earth slips away, to what good was accumulating, hoarding, not sharing all these earthly possessions? All you have, before you approach the next phase of your life, is yourself, your decisions, your soul. No possessions.

God Always Accepts Us Back

Sin, it tears us away from God. While it tears us away from God, many forget that God always accepts. It is our guilt that keeps us from going back to God. God always accepts us back when we have strayed. A terrific post, titled What God Thinks of Sinners (Luke 15:1-10) shared a very wonderful verse that I wanted to share with you:

Luke 15:3-7

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

It justifies the love that God has for each and everyone of us. He does not give premature judgement but accepts us, gives us a chance and welcomes us back into His arms when we go astray. Our God is the God of love and forgiveness. There is none greater than the One True God. There is no love greater than His love. God always accepts us back because he is so great.

Leading Means to Serve, Not to Be Served: Pope Francis

Pope Francis is a man of humility and no one can deny that. Leading means to serve, not to be served and he shows that each day. He chose to live in a humble home, commute, and carry his own luggage. He is a person who does not want to be served. He is a real and great example of a leader whose heart’s desire is to serve and not to be served. He renewed the faith of many Catholics who had lost some of their faith. A great blog: Beyond Hemlines: What A Pope Can Teach Us About Modesty by Deborah Farmer Kris perfectly pointed out how Pope Francis has restored the meaning of humility in its truest sense.

“Pope Francis’ news-making decisions to shun certain “allurements of fashion” is what first endeared him to his new flock. He carries his own bags, swapped the apostolic palace for a room at the Inn of Saint Martha, celebrates mass each morning with rank-and-file Vatican employees, and is driven around in a Ford Focus.”

The Pope’s call for the Catholic Church to be a Church of the poor is a reminder to all Catholics to remain humble and to share. He is a great example to world leaders, that leading means to serve, not to be served.

Make Strides in Your Daily Life

Today I read an interesting post titled, There Is No “Catholic Awareness” Ribbon. Upon reading it, a realization came to light that would probably answer why Catholics are often fond of symbolism. Most of the time, we see pictures of saints, a crucifix, and statues in Catholic homes. This sparks constant arguments with non-Catholics. While I was thinking of this fact, I thought of something else.

Andrew, the author of the blog was offered a pink ribbon for cancer awareness and he declined because he said he already knew about breast cancer and there was no reason for him to be wearing the ribbon. He also wrote about how he bought a new car and hung a rosary in the rear view mirror. The rosary ended up being a reminder for him to be kind on the road.

So my realization was that crosses, rosaries, and statues of saints can help make strides in your daily life. These strides can be like Andrew being kinder on the road, or they can be seeing a rosary and deciding to pray more that day. They help us be aware, and be constantly reminded that we should love our daily lives according to our faith and according to the teachings of God.

Getting Involved at Your Local Parish: Don’t Be Nervous

I believe that there are a lot of individuals who want to belong in their Church community or parish but some are hesitant. So why would they be hesitant to get more involved? Getting involved at your local parish should be easy right? Based on my own experience, it’s not that easy. People get really nervous about things when they don’t know what to expect. I was afraid of not belonging when I wanted to start helping out more at my local parish. I was scared that no one would accept me and I would not know anyone in the ministry to talk to. This is normal, but sometimes leaving your comfort zone to doing something new can be amazing. I started helping out with my parish’s catechism program for children, and I love it! I’ve met so many amazing people.

If you are having the same fears I did, try reading this blog post from HDYDI: Find Your Church Ministry. If I read it before I got into the Church Ministry, it would have helped me decide to join in sooner. I found her post easy to relate to.

If your desire is to serve God, he will pour his blessings down on you and open opportunities for you to be exactly where you want to be.

A Prayer For Humility: Give Praise to the Lord

Pride is sin that we all are guilty of. What beats pride is humility. At times we are faced with a lot of circumstances in life that tempt us to be overly proud. The Bible tells us that pride is sinful and it corrupts our spirit. We must remember that all things come from our creator and everything that we have is because of God. In everything that we do we should remember to give praise to God. Letting pride get in the way of praising God is common though, and we will all struggle with it from time to time.

Often, I forgot that my achievements are not my own. I forgot that without God, nothing would have become of me. I came across a great post entitled: “Litany of Humility: A Prayer For A Beloved Sinner“. The prayer keeps me in touch with myself and taught me to remember that humility beats pride. I thought that others should read this prayer for humility as well because it helped me very much.

Let Us Not Be Divided

The blog post One in Christ featured on Roses Near Running Waters, gave new insight today. Well, perhaps not that new but an age long plea. The blog post shared a wonderful verse:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)”

God has called all of his believers to be united in the name of Jesus. Let us not be divided! No matter what the religion and the differences in beliefs and traditions, all Christians believe in one true God and the God of salvation. God calls for unity of those who believe in him, and I am hoping that people will listen and understand that it is now more than ever that we need to be united in the name of Christ. I believe that what keeps us all divided is pride, we need to recognize this and set it aside. This should be so, so that we Christians, the warriors of Christ might begin our true purpose as servants and disciples of the Lord. The faith is waning and more people are tearing themselves away from our faith while we stand and watch doing nothing.

May God give us the strength to recognize our weakness, accept it, and correct it for the glory of God. Let us not be divided, we are so much stronger together.