Monday, August 29, 2016

“Jesus, I trust in You” …well…sort of.

Christianity at its core, is based upon trust, trust in Jesus Christ, in His love for us, in His promise of salvation, in His forgiveness, in His “unfathomable Divine Mercy”, and in the knowledge that He is with us “always, until the end of the age”. (Matthew 28:20). So vital is this principle that the Psalmist implores us in Psalm 37:3,5 to “Trust in the LORD and do good…Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will act”.

But how many of us truly “trust in the Lord”? How many of us despite our regular attendance at Mass, reading of Scripture, participation in Eucharistic Adoration, and daily devotions such as the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, or any number of Litanies are really nothing more than shallow water swimmers whose “trust in the Lord” is really confined to the four walls of the Church, or the four walls of our family and friends, the four walls of our prayer group or the four walls of our comfort zone? 

Friday, August 19, 2016

"...simply love first"

We as Catholics are blessed with a richness and fullness to our faith that all too often, we unfortunately constrict, constrain, and confine in a manner that Jesus Christ never intended. We have an amazing triad of divinely inspired dogma, doctrine and devotions that when properly embraced, truly set us free to be Christ to our brothers and sisters. Sadly however, too many Catholics become so entrenched in dogma, doctrine, and devotions (i.e. Rosaries, Chaplets, Jesus Prayer, Novenas, litanies, etc.) that their hearts are unable to see what the eyes of Christ call us to envision. 

If our dogma, doctrine or devotions are not drawing us out into the uncertainty of the deep waters, then we reduce them to serving merely as barriers that confine us in the shallows where safety abounds.  If our doctrine, devotions or dogma do not draw us out of our comfort zones into those places we’d much rather avoid, then we reduce them to nothing more than a straight-jacket that constrains us into ourselves. If our devotions, doctrine, or dogma do not physically draw us into the darkness of the world to shed light, then we reduce them to nothing more than a ‘lamp hidden away under a bushel basket’ (see Luke 11:33), whose light is constricted, serving no purpose and having no value.

How can we call ourselves Christians if we are not fully willing to abandon the safety of the shallow water and follow Him? A great lesson that we can learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters is to simply LOVE first, last, and always, then the triad of our faith, (dogma, doctrine, devotions) can serve in the manner truly intended, as a set of wings that enable us soar limitlessly, rather than as a set of shackles that confine us to the four walls of our comfort zone. 

"...dishonor for the sake of the name."

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). This particular passage is one that if properly considered by the Christian, is one that is full of promise, hope, and undoubtedly, a fair amount of trepidation.  For here, as in so many of Christ’s teachings, there is no ambiguity, no parable that must be “unwrapped”, and no meaning beyond the simplicity of the statement. Those of us who are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of when He is standing before the Heavenly Father.
Perhaps we’re thinking, “well, that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not ashamed of Christ and I’ll talk about Him to anyone who wants to discuss Him. I go to Church regularly, I pray every day, I attend all kinds of retreat programs and/or faith study programs and we talk about our Lord at those programs regularly”. This is all great stuff and can be valuable in developing a deeper appreciation for aspects of faith, but, it is sadly nothing more than swimming in the shallow end of the pool, or fishing in your favorite pond, re-catching the same fish every time you visit, releasing them back into the pond when you depart, comforted in the knowledge that they’ll be there next week when you return. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Joy of the Gospel

This past week was one of extremes, tremendously positive on the one hand, and in one instance, one that was anything but, although it was still an encounter filled with beauty - in terms of what one is able to learn of oneself. The purpose of this reflection however is to speak specifically to something that has been a trend throughout our journey within the community, (a journey that has brought us now to 2,188 homes) and that something was viscerally crystallized today in 5 successive encounters with members of the Charlton Baptist Church.

In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Joy of the Gospel’, he writes that “We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” Truly, a remarkable statement from a remarkable individual that speaks to the very essence of whom Jesus Christ is, and, who He calls each of us to be. Today, as we encountered these 5 consecutive Baptist families, we were struck by the genuine love in their eyes, the burning flame of hope in their hearts, and a peace within their beings that spoke to the clarity with which they see Christ in everything they do and everyone they meet. It was, in every sense of the word, a true encounter with the Risen Christ.