Blame No More

How many times have I cursed Adam and Eve.  How could they be so stupid and selfish to ruin it for the rest of us?  I like to think I would have been better.  I would have resisted the temptation.  If I were in the Garden of Eden with all of the goodness around me, where everything was easy and happy, I would never have been so stupid and so ungrateful.  I would have been satisfied with what I had.  I like to think that…  But I probably prove daily that I too would have fallen, indeed I do fall.

Today, I re-read the story we all know so well,  and what struck me is Adam and Eve’s response to God and God’s response to Adam and Eve:

When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.”

Genesis 3:8-13

Wow!  Not only do they disobey God, but then they blame others for it.  Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake.  They almost sound like 5 year olds.  “It wasn’t my fault.”  “She made me do it.”  Our shame often makes us blame others for our actions.  Society seems to encourage us to ignore individual responsibility.  We fill the courts with lawsuits blaming someone else for things that “happen” to us.  It’s the gun manufacturer’s fault, the bartender’s fault, the drug manufacturer’s fault.  Social media, video games, movies and TV all cause us to do things we know are wrong.  Its hard to correct our behavior when we refuse to accept that we make the choices that lead to evil.  There are plenty of snakes out there, plenty of temptations, but we make choices.  And as much as I want to blame Adam and Eve for all of the misfortunes in the world, or blame politicians or media or others, I make choices everyday.  I cannot hide from my actions.

I do not want to be like Adam and Eve blaming others. When we blame others, it is easy to become victims and feel helpless.   I cannot control others, but I can control my choices.  I need to open my eyes to my choices.  I need to take responsibility, and seek God’s forgiveness, for my actions.

We often focus on the man and the woman in the story, Adam and Eve.  But the best part of the story is God. God knows His children have sinned, have disobeyed Him, have not trusted His goodness, but He does not turn His back on them.  He searches for them.  He calls for them.  Just as He calls us back to Him.  We think of this as the greatest sin, the original one, the one that started it all.  But look at what God does.  Adam and Eve have turned from Him, but God doesn’t give up on them, or us.  He comes down to earth to meet Adam and Eve.  He meets us where we are.   They are hiding in the darkness of the trees and God calls for them. God calls us out of the darkness.  He questions them about what they have done.  He helps us recognize our sin because He wants us to do better.  God does all of this for Adam and Eve, and He does the same for us.  We chose to know evil, and God keeps calling us back to know good.

Lord,

You show me again and again how great you are.  Your plans for us are good.  You know better than us what we need and what we don’t.  Forgive me for the times I have turned away, for the times I have thought I have known better, for the times I have blamed others.  I want to know good.  I want to know you.  I don’t need anything other than you and your plan for me.

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

It is Pentecost.  The day we celebrate the gift (and gifts) of the Holy Spirit. What an amazing and blessed day.

Last night my church celebrated Pentecost with a beautiful vigil.  To the outside world it may not have seemed that way.  The attendance was low.  The music quit working not once, not twice, but multiple times.  The wind blew the candles out in the candle-light procession, not once, not twice, but multiple times.  Rain began to fall during the celebratory bonfire.  To the outside world, perhaps not a success.  But what the outside world didn’t know — what the outside world never fully appreciates — is the true beauty of God’s presence.  And God was there.  The Holy Spirit was there.  I felt His presence almost immediately.

For several weeks, I have been struggling because I felt disconnected from God.  The world had become too busy.  Human events had dominated my life.  I had tried, and failed, on several occasions to welcome God back in, but quickly became distracted again by what the world deems important.

Last night, when the man-made speakers failed, and the flames from the man-made candles blew out, I felt the presence of God.  I felt His Spirit fall upon us.  And it was good.

Today the Bible opened up to the last verse in Matthew:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

This passage tells me a few things, all of which reinforced my experience last night.  First, the apostles who had spent three years with Jesus, doubted, even when He stood right before them.  This is comforting.  Because I too have doubted.  I have felt disconnected.  I have felt lost.  I have doubted.  Even when God is right there in front of me.

Second, of course, is the commission by Jesus to all of us to go and make disciples of all nations.  His name, His love and His commandments are not something we can keep to ourselves.

And third, and the one that I could use a reminder of every day, is the last line of Matthew’s gospel: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Sometimes I can feel God’s presence in a powerful way.  I become overwhelmed and am often brought to tears.  Other times, particularly when I am distracted by the world, I miss that feeling.  But He is there.  Behold, He is with us always.

And like last night, when things seem to be going wrong, or not in line with what we as humans have planned, God shows us that His plan is better and can not be judged by human standards.  He is with us.  As a Father who loves us, as the Son who carries our burdens and as the Holy Spirit who guides us.  He is with us and He will love us, carry us and guide us when we least expect it and in ways the human world cannot fully understand.

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

 

 

Joy in the Morning; Separating Light from Darkness

Do you ever lie awake at night just waiting for the morning to come?  And it seems to take forever?  The morning brings light.  It takes away the darkness and shadows.  The morning brings renewal, a fresh start.  But sometimes the night seems long. The darkness seems eternal.  Will the sun ever shine again?  Will the sun really come out tomorrow, as orphan Annie sings?

David reminds us in his Psalm:

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5

The night is dark.  And sometimes it sneaks up on us.    And sometimes it lasts longer than we like.  It tarries. It lingers.  It waits.  But God created light from darkness.  And His light brings joy.  There is no darkness that He cannot shine through.  From the beginning, God has created light where there was darkness:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—  and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1-4

We do not have the power to create light, but we can find it.  We tarry in darkness, searching for the light, hoping for the light.  And sometimes we forget that the light is right there in front of us.  Because we struggled to see it on our own, God sent us Jesus.  Peter reminds us of this:

Therefore, I will always remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this “tent,” to stir you up by a reminder, since I know that I will soon have to put it aside, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me.  I shall also make every effort to enable you always to remember these things after my departure.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.

2 Peter 1:12-21

God sent us Jesus — to be our guiding light in the darkness.  He is our lamp in the dark world “until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  We do well to be attentive to Him.  No matter how dark the place is, no matter how dark or long the night, the day will dawn.  The day will dawn.  Jesus will be our light until it does, until we fully allow the morning star, God’s light and love to rise in our heart.

Jesus,

You are my light!  I do not want to tarry in the darkness.  Help me make it to the dawn.  Help the morning star rise in my heart.  I want you to fill my heart and my life, with your light and love.  You separate light from darkness.  Help separate me from the darkness.

 

Go, Set the World on Fire

The last few weeks the words “go forth”, “don’t be confined” and St. Ignatius’ words: “ite, inflammate Omnia” (“go, set the world on fire”) have weighed heavy on my mind.  I sit at mass and honestly think mainly about myself, my relationship with God, what I want, what I need.  But then at the end, we are sent out.  Go forth.  Glorify the Lord by your life.  Spread the Good News.

Today the Bible opened to Jeremiah:

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”

But the LORD answered me, Do not say, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:4-8

There is so much in this passage.  First, God knows us.  He formed us.  But even before He formed us in the womb, He knew us and He knows us.  He knows you.  He knows me.  He knows what we are capable of and He dedicated each of us for a purpose.  He knows us, better than we know ourselves. As I read that and feel this realization, I have tears in my eyes.  What an incredible feeling to realize this.  He knows us.  I don’t know that any person really knows me.  But He does.

Now to the second point.  As great as the first point makes me feel, the second makes me hang my head, because I feel like I answer God’s call, much like Jeremiah did.  Not me God.  I do not know how to speak.  I am too young.  I do not have the knowledge.  Someone else could do it better.  I don’t know all the rules.  I don’t know all of the scriptures.  What if I say the wrong thing.  What if someone else disagrees with me.  I need someone else to lead me and guide me.  I have lots of reasons why it shouldn’t be me.  Lots of reasons to say no when I feel God nudge me or even out right shout to me.

Which leads to the third point.  God knows us.  He has dedicated us for a purpose.  And when He tells us to go, we should go.  When He tells us to speak, we should speak.  “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”  Do not be afraid.  God will lead.  We may not have this, but God does.  He’s got this.  And when He tells us to do something, it is because He knows the plan.  And although we may not know everything, He does.  He knows what we are capable of.  It may be beyond dispute that we cannot do it on our own, but we can do anything through God.

Lord,

Thank you for forming me.  Thank you for knowing me, even when I don’t know myself.  Thank you for having a purpose for me.  Help me be ready to say yes.  No matter how many excuses I throw up, knock down my resistance and my fear.  Send me, Lord.  Help me to hear your call.  Help me to listen.  Help me to respond and follow your plan.  I want to spread your Good News.   I want to help set the world on fire with your Spirit.  Send me, Lord.  Fill me with your Spirit and send me.

 

Comfort dog? Or Comfort God

As humans, we desperately search for comfort.  Hotels, cars, furniture, clothes, even foods, all advertise and try to lure us in because of the comfort that they provide.  We long for comfort.  We long for true fellowship and the comfort that it brings.

We struggle to find it in ourselves and in each other.  So we look for it in things.  And we look for it in God’s other creatures.  Comfort animals have become the latest “in” thing.  No one asks to bring a comfort human with them wherever they go, but there are plenty of requests for comfort peacocks, comfort rabbits, comfort bearded dragons, and, of course, comfort dogs.  In the last several years, the numbers of individuals carrying comfort dogs in their arms, or on leashes or in crates, wherever they go has greatly increased — why?  They help fill our need for comfort.  They don’t talk back.  They don’t judge.  They are fully present and attentive with us. They appear to love us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

We so long for that comfort, and we so often miss the mark as to where to find it. As usual, we have it backwards.  We look to a comfort d-o-g, when we should be looking to G-o-d.

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded where we can take comfort.  King David frequently rejoices in God’s comfort in his psalms:

My soul rests in God alone,

from whom comes my salvation.

God alone is my rock and salvation,

my fortress; I shall never fall.

Psalms 62:2-3

St. Paul also rejoices in the comfort of our Lord who has enriched us with spiritual gifts and provided us with grace through Jesus:

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ].  God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

We don’t need a new car, or the softest fabric.  We don’t need a certified comfort animal.  God will keep us firm to the end.  He alone is our rock and our salvation.  Where our human comfort fails, God is faithful and by him we are called to fellowship with Jesus.  It is only through Him that we truly find peace, rest and comfort.  How did David and Paul know this?  Because God tells us.  He told Moses and Joshua (and tells us):

Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

He told us again through his son, Jesus:

Peace I leave with you; 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.

John 14:27

Although this world may make us feel alone and afraid, God is always with us.  He has spoken back to us, in a good way, through His word.  If we truly turn to him, we will find ourselves buried in His chest before we can even fully turn around, because He is in fact that close.  He is the peace and the comfort that we crave.  He is always fully present and attentive with us.  He loves us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

Lord,

You are my rock and my salvation.  You are my comfort and my peace.  When I am lost and afraid, help me to remember to turn to you.  I want you to be my comfort.  I want to rest in your arms.  Thank you for telling us time and time again that you are here.  Help us to listen, every day and particularly when we need it most.  It is so easy to get lost in this world.  Thank you for all of your beautiful creation, including the animals that bring us comfort, and all of mankind.  Help us to do a better job of bringing each other comfort (through love and fellowship rather than material things).  Help us always know that true comfort comes when we turn to you, when we are in fellowship with you.  I want to live in that fellowship.  I want others to share in that fellowship. Help me to bring your love and comfort to others.

Proclamation

I am done with the labels of the world.  I am done with being pigeon holed into a man-made category or group.  I no longer want to identify or segregate myself into divisions that we create.  I am done with picking sides.  I am neither a Republican, nor a Democrat.  I am neither a Patriot, nor a Ram.  I am not American or German or French or English.  I am neither a man, nor a feminist.  I am not white or black or Hispanic or Asian. I am neither clergy, nor laity.  Our human “teams” are wrong.  We are fighting the wrong battles.  We are playing the wrong game.  We are fighting against each other instead of helping each other reach the ultimate goal that we all should share. I do not fully agree with any side and yet I easily get swept up on one team, angry, or even hating, the other team. No more!  Let this be my proclamation.

I am a child of God.  I am no longer going to conform my words or actions to any group other than the one God has called me to be.  God has not chosen one political party.  God has not chosen one country.  God has chosen you and me.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.  For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.

Romans 12:2-5

Lord,

Your team is the only team I want to be on.  Your side is the only side I want to take.  Help me not to get swept up in the “teams” and “sides” of this age.  Help me not to try to fit in.  I belong to you and you alone.  Help me to uplift and unite rather than split and divide into teams or sides.  Guide me to your will and to seek only what is good and pleasing to you.

A house divided: what side are you on?

A house divided cannot stand.  I have heard this saying many times.  But I am not sure I ever realized that it came from the Bible. Today as I read the Gospel reading, and then re-read it and re-read it again, I struggled to understand what Jesus was saying.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”* and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

Mark 3:22-27

We are a nation divided. Deeply divided. How can we stand?

Currently we do not stand. We do not stand together. We do not stand at all.  We cower behind social media.  We attack children who wear red hats and call them racists; we attack infants in their mothers’  wombs and call those who oppose it sexist.  We build walls that only divide us.  We oppose the death penalty for even our most heinous criminals but celebrate murder of our most innocent victims.  A house divided will not stand…  but are we standing now?

My first thought when I heard this passage, was a call to unity.  We must come together as a country, or we will fall.

But as I read the full passage, Jesus compares the kingdom and house to Satan.  At the end of the day, I am not sure it is necessarily about coming together as a country, although that would be a nice by-product.  It is about coming together as God’s people.  Kingdoms fall.  Houses fall.  These are human creations.  And when Satan gets a hold of them, Satan causes division.  Satan does not fight himself.  Satan will not drive himself out.  He will not go against himself.  Only God can defeat Satan.  Only God can drive him out.

But God gave us free will.  We can choose Satan.  We can choose division.  We can stay quiet and not stand.  We can choose not to oppose what we know to be wrong.  We can choose to take our fight to social media, instead of taking our plight to God.  We can be weak and allow Satan to plunder our house, plunder our country, because we are not strong enough, on our own, to stop him.  Or we can choose God.  God has the power to bind Satan.  God has the power to unite.  God and only God has the power to save, to destroy Satan, to destroy the division that Satan creates.  To heal our country.  But we have to choose.  God will not stop us from choosing Satan.  We have to choose.

I choose you God!  I am not strong enough to defeat Satan.  I am not strong enough to fix the division that permeates our country.  I need your help.  I want your help.  We are weak.  As a country, we are lost.  Guide us.  Lead us.  Show us your way.  Help our leaders find your way.  Help each of us, leader or not, seek you.  Help us come together united as your children. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  You are my Way, my Truth and my Life.   I reject Satan.  I choose you!

 

 

Build a Prayer Wall

Is anyone else tired of it?  Tired of the fighting?  Tired of the politicians (on both sides)?  Tired of the interior walls that bind all of us?  Tired of the media creating controversy because it “sells”?

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.

You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:1-3

All of our fighting, all of our conflict arises when we put our own passions, our own desires, above those of God.  We fight over everything, it seems.  We become so impassioned that we believe we are right, even when we do not understand all of the facts.  We judge those who are against us, without ever considering their side.  They are wrong because of the color of their skin, the political party that they support, the country that they come from, or even the hat that they wear.  They are wrong because they dare to disagree with us.  What is it we are fighting for?

Do we ever stop to ask God’s will?  Do we ever stop to ask God for whatever it is that we believe is so worth fighting over?  As the above passage states: “You do not possess because you do not ask.” We cannot win, we cannot gain, anything worth winning from someone else on earth.  The only things worth “winning” come from God.  Jesus tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7.  But do we ask?  And if we ask, do we do it for the right reasons?  “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”  Do we ask so that we can do God’s will or so that we can throw it in the face of our opponent?

I am saddened this weekend by the news out of Washington.  A group of high school students from a Catholic high school were confronted by adults near the Lincoln Memorial, likely because they wore the red campaign hats from President Trump saying Make America Great Again.  The media immediately accused the boys, who were there for an anti-abortion March for Life, of creating the controversy.  And very quickly the entire social media universe was against them.  I was not there.  I did not see what happened, but then neither did the media or the many accusers now lining up against them.  What I did see on a video was a teenage boy standing still and not saying a word despite an adult male coming very close to him while banging a drum.  The media called it a stare down.  I saw a boy not knowing what to do, and so not doing anything.  His so called smirk, looked to me to be the same uncomfortable look that I get on my face when I am placed in an uncomfortable situation.  I understand the man with the drum was trying to diffuse a situation.  I understand some of the boys began to fear a confrontation from a group of people with whom they probably did not have prior experience.  As in most human situations, there was probably errors made on all sides of the equation.  How quickly we spin things out of control.  How quickly we jump to conclusions on either side of the controversy.    To what gain?

Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12

We fight over issues without knowing the facts.  We judge others based on the word of others or based on what the media reports.  We create controversy out of misunderstandings and mistakes and make no effort to understand or forgive.   (Oh how I pray that God does not do the same to us.)  We equate a wall with hatred instead of protection.  I am all for a wall if it will give us protection, but I am not sure it will.  There is too much evil on the inside of the wall as well — from all sides.  We need help.  As America, as individuals, we need help.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

James 4:6-10

We know we need to ask and it will be given.  But we need to ask for the right reasons.  We need, as a country, to humble ourselves to God.  We need to ask for God’s help and ask that His will be done.  We need to surround ourselves with a wall of protection — a prayer wall.  A wall impenetrable by evil, whether inside or outside the country’s borders.  A wall that unites us, all of us, in Jesus’ name.  A wall that cloaks us in God’s goodness.  I beg, each of you, to help me build this prayer wall.  Prayer by prayer.  Let’s cover our nation  with prayer.  Let’s provide this country the protection it needs — God’s protection.

Lord,

We need help.  This country needs help and I need help.  We all struggle.  We all think we are right.  We are all steeped in pride and need help with understanding, patience and forgiveness.  We need your help!  Help us and all of our country’s leaders and individuals on the street, both democratic and republican, to be humble and to seek your will rather than any human agenda.  Help us to teach our children peace and understanding rather than rash judgments as harsh and hateful as any words exchanged.  Help us to lead others to you, rather than pushing them away.  Help us to build a prayer wall.  Connecting prayer by prayer across the country.  Connecting person by person to each other and to you.  Lord, you are the only one who can protect and save any of us.  Help us, Lord.  We need more of you in our lives.

 

Do this is memory of me

This morning at Catholic mass, I heard the words that are familiar to so many of us:

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”

Luke 22:19

I have heard these words every week since before I was old enough to know what the words meant.  And today, for the first time, I think I understood them.

Jesus commands us to do this in memory of Him.  But do what?  I have always believed that He was just telling us to go to church on Sunday and celebrate the Eucharist.  But today, I focused on the actual words.  This is my body, which will be given for you. Jesus is giving up his body… for us.  He is giving himself… for us.  “Do this in memory of me.”  This is what He is calling us to do.  Give ourselves for others.  Give ourselves to Jesus. Its not just about breaking bread or drinking wine.  He is calling us to do.  He is calling us to give.  He is calling us to love.  John captures His words in this way:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:12-13

“Do this in memory of me.”  It is a tall order.  Just showing up at mass on Sunday is a lot easier.  Give myself for someone else?  Lay down my life for someone else?  Lay down my wants and needs for someone else?  Put someone else ahead of me?  Ouch.  I can barely hand over the remote control. But this is what Jesus calls us to do.  This is what true love is.  It’s not just the romantic love we see on tv. It’s not lust.  It’s not sex.  It’s not just enjoying the other person’s company.  It is giving one’s self, putting one’s own needs to the side, and laying down one’s life for someone else.

And today at mass, as the priest said these words, I got it.  Jesus loves me.  Jesus gave his life for me.  How can I not try (and I say try, because I know I will fail) to give myself fully to God, as He gave Himself to me?

Jesus,

You came to earth to show us what love is.  A love so strong and pure that we cannot fathom its depths.  Our own selfish needs, or more accurately “wants”, keep us from being capable of the love that you shared.  And yet you still call us to do it.  Jesus I love you with all of the love that I am capable of today, but I want to love you deeper.  Help me to continue to grow.  I want to give myself fully to you.  Help me to love here on earth with the love that you have shared.  Help me to give up my selfish ways and let go of the need to control.  Help me to give myself for the others I encounter.

 

Love through the Hurt

We are hurt.  Everyday.  By friends.  By loved ones.  By politicians.  By priests and pastors.  By people that we put our trust in.  And likely, we hurt many of these same people.  Everyday.   We are human.  We err.  We make mistakes.  We are selfish.  We are prideful.  And … so is everyone else.

Today, the country is divided by walls not even built, by politicians and media.  I am not sure any of them know what is right.  Yet, we choose sides and are hurt by anyone who chooses differently.  We focus on issues and political parties rather than focusing on God.

Today, many are struggling in the Catholic Church over the abuse perpetrated by some priests and the cover up perpetrated by others.  The devil knows how to strike where it can do the most damage.  The Church is hurt by the people we put our trust in.

There is so much hurt in the world.  So much unforgiveness.

This week, Jesus placed two passages on my heart:

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?  You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

We all sin.  Yet, we all think that we can judge.  I certainly can judge that there is evil in the world.  I certainly can judge that there is sin.  But can I judge another person?  Can I judge their struggle with evil?  Their struggle with sin?  Can my sin stand up to my own judgment?  I know it cannot.  I need God’s judgment and God’s grace and mercy.  Only God can truly know our heart and our struggles.  Only God can judge the person.  We can judge the sin and evil, and we should judge to stop and prevent.  But only God can judge the person.  We are called to love, even when we are hurt.  Because God loves us, even when we hurt him.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.  In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:16-21

We may not be able to stop others from hurting us.  We are human and so are they.  But we can stop the “hurt” from hurting us.  We can love.  We can hate the sin, hate the evil and work to stop and prevent it.  But we can love the person and leave it to God to judge their soul.

Jesus,

Thank you for showing me your love.  I am not worthy.  I am sorry for the times that I have hurt you.  I am sorry for the times I have turned away.  Help me to love others even when they hurt me.  Help me to bring your peace to the world.