Posts Tagged ‘God’

Three Men of the Cross- Part III

August 5, 2017

Three Men of the Cross – Part III

The third robber on Calvary was Gustus. Gustus is seen as the unrepentant robber. He is the one who echoed the taunts of the crowds and the soldiers who said to Jesus, that if he was truly the Son of God that he should come down off the cross, and save Himself and in fact the other two as well. Gustus was as history records, rebuked by Dismas, who asked if he in truth had no regard for his immortal soul.

So Gustus, who was convicted of robbery, and was sentenced to death, seems to not really have much regard for not only his own situation, but in appearance, had no regard for the others as we know, we have no real knowledge of Gustus, no back story, and no insight into what happened with him or in his life prior to this point.

We can however, consider some differing possibilities about what his story might have been. We can tell he was angry, or at least possibly resigned to his lot in this process. Possibly, since the Romans had typically executed their criminals in pairs, he and Dismas had an opportunity to talk things over. Review their lives together, consider, for a time, what life might have been like if they had made other choices. Possibly, they discussed what it is that they would have liked to do if they were not in jail, or reminisce about lost loves, or loved ones.

They might have had the time to talk about how it is that they found themselves in this position. It does however seem a bit more likely that Gustus was just an angry man. He could have been angry about his life, or about his love, or about his work. We just don’t know. Possibly he and Dismas were friends and at that moment Gustus just thought that Jesus was some nut case.

Consider for a moment. that possibly at some time in our lives you or I or someone we know and love, has become Gustus. Possibly you were angry, over some part of your life you may have felt you had no control over. Possibly you lost something, that was of great value to you. Maybe you lost someone. You were angry, beyond words. Possibly you lashed out. Possibly you found yourself in a fight, that was either verbal or physical. Maybe you were judged in some way that made you feel that you were not being judged fairly, or treated fairly for that matter.

The result of how it is that world might judge you , or treat you might also bring you to that point of utter frustration.

God gives us tests in life, and those tests can frustrate and bewilder us. These tests are usually meant to teach us something, or to provide opportunities to be a conduit for Gods grace. We do not always get to know that. Which is sometimes the point. It is also at times quite frustrating.

I believe it is safe to say that during the course of our lives we have all failed. I know I have failed more times than I can count. I did not always understand, or wish to understand. During the course of our failures, it is quite possible ( even usual in some cases) where we are not always immediately repentant. In the heat of the moment, our human failing can take over. Once we realize that we have failed at that point and when cooler heads prevail,, we can think through the situation, or talk it over with someone and come to the conclusion that we probably already knew, but were not ready to accept.

Now consider, the brothers and sisters who are in prison. There are entire groups of prison ministries set up to share the love of Jesus, with those who are currently incarcerated. These brothers and sisters, are Gustus as well. They are angry, they are in their own crucifixion or sorts. They might be at a point where they are not ready to accept the love of Jesus, Let alone the love of a brother or sister. In prison, there is time to sit and ponder, what has happened. Time to ponder how they got there. Time to try to work through their path to sanctification, if they are ready to do that. It is also true that they have time to just sit, and be angry, and lash out , like Gustus, at the Christ of those who try to help.

I wanted to share a story, about a prisoner, who was condemned to death by the state. When the time came, the prison chaplain went to be with the prisoner, to bring Christ to him. It was the holiday season… The state likes to execute prisoners around the holidays as they believe it will bring the victims closure.

As it turned out.. while the Chaplain was with the prisoner, his wife, was with the prisoner’s family at the church nearby. She was being Christ to them. Shortly before the scheduled hour, the victim’s family arrived at the same church. There was sharing, a coming together, they prayed together, and then the Chaplains wife, knowing that both families were from out of town, invited them both to dinner… It was Thanksgiving Day.

We must realize that we too are, or at least have been, Gustus. In this light, we need to be able to get through the human failings, and realizing that we too are broken, fallen people, we can also accept the love of Christ from others, and in turn, take the love of Christ to others..

May God give you the gift of His peace !

3 Men of the Cross, Part II

July 29, 2017

Last week, we took a walk through a historical perspective of the crucifixion of Jesus. This week, I would like to take a look at Dismas .

Dismas, was the man who guilty of robbery, and was executed , it happens, on Jesus’ right . Gustus the other robber, was crucified on his left side. If you remember from last week, The crucifixion of the leader of a group was traditionally done so that they hung in the middle, of the group for all the others to see, and so that they could suffer additional anguish over what they had caused.

Since both Dismas and Gustus were already to be executed for their crimes they had some additional time to ponder their crimes while in prison. When the hour had come, and Dismas was on the cross,
He was silent, to spite the taunts and jeers that were being hurled at Jesus.

Eventually, when Gustus decided to join in the taunting of Jesus, it was then that Dismas finally spoke up. He rebuked Gustus for his taunts, and asked Jesus to remember him when he entered into His kingdom.

Lets take a moment and put ourselves in the shoes of Dismas.

There is no back story for Dismas. We don’t know anything about what he was like, or what his life was like, or his circumstances. We don’t get to know if he had a family, or if he had relatives who were living, or anything at all. We are only left to understand that at the end of the 11th hour, he got to a crucial point, and finally went to Jesus for forgiveness.

We are Dismas. Or at least we have been at some point. Or maybe not quite yet.. ?
Consider that we are all suffering for the burden of our sinful nature. We are fallen, and broken, suffering and being crucified.

We all sin. Our sins are different for different people, but we still sin. The point is how we deal with the sin. You told a “little lie”, She took paperclips from the office. He uses chemicals to escape his reality. She over charges for purchases. You might force employees to work more than necessary.
The sins are many, the reasons many, the answer is still the same.

Lets say that one of your great challenges in life is your patience. You have none, or at least little. You do not suffer fools gladly ( or even not so gladly) . Because of this you do not show the love of Christ, or the face of Christ to your brothers and sisters. You try, and you fail, your pray about it.. you ask God for forgiveness and patience, and you really do try.. and then you go out into the world and something happens and then it happens again. You get upset with someone. At the end of the day, you are right back having that same conversation.

At the same time, we need to be able to look beyond the current circumstance of those who are busy in the process of working out their own salvation. In our current day and age social media allows us to keep in touch or find again those souls we might have lost touch with over the years. Sometimes if we have the opportunity to open our hearts we may learn that what we viewed about someone at one point in time, may change, in light of other information.

Since we are our brothers keeper, we have the responsibility to look past the sinner who is on the cross on the other side of us, and see with the heart of Christ, someone who may be trying to find their way. they might have had some time to consider that they too are sinners, and are seeking the face of Christ, in order to ask forgiveness, for hope, and understanding.

We are all Dismas, we are all seeking forgiveness, we are all seeking to be remembered when Jesus comes. We need to be ready to understand the other, in light of the repentant sinner that we are trying to be.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

The Three Men of the Cross

July 22, 2017

Three Men of Calvary… We Are All Three

The crucifixion as an event was filled with some points of interest. To get a good understanding of what occurred we need a sense of what was going on in the area at the time.

Roman rule was fairly new to them, and during that time robbery, theft, and murder were somewhat commonplace and a pretty big issue that the Romans were trying to get under control. The Roman way of dealing with that, was execution by crucifixion. It was cruel, it was not quick, and it allowed, for an extended period of time, the opportunity for others to watch them die and consider that possibly they would not like to meet the same end, and amend any ideas they might have had of breaking the laws.

Another curiosity, is that, generally speaking, the Roman method of execution was, at least in practice, to execute people two at a time, unless….. they happened upon a group of people they caught in the act of the crimes, in which case all the people who were responsible were crucified at the same time. If this were to happen, AND the person who was the leader of the group, or band , or rebellion could be identified, that person was executed in the middle of the grouping of people so that they would not be missed and would be identified as such.

From this, then, we can know that the crucifixion of Christ was an oddity. Consider what happened in the Garden when Jesus was taken into custody. ” And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? ” ( Luke 22:52) . So here Jesus is treated as such.

In addition, it is noteworthy that He is crucified in the middle of the three.. This would tend to signify that He was the leader of the group.. He was in charge… Then, there is the other two men. So, history records that the other two actually were robbers Since they were crucified with Jesus it appears that Jesus’ crucifixion was an addition… or an after thought of the day. In perspective, it was the other two men had been in jail for a while awaiting their execution, and Jesus’ trial, and judgment occurred on the same day as the others, after all the delays and passing Him back and forth etc. Finally , with Roman efficiency, they decided that since they already had an execution scheduled, why not just get this over with, and crucify Jesus at the same time. It would make efficient work of the issue and put it to a final resolution and make the locals happy all at the same time.

I went all through this explanation because it helps to gain an objective non-theological view of the occurrence in order to understand, as one friar used to quip.. ” The story behind the story ” .

Now on to the other two men. The two other men who were crucified with Christ were , Dismas and Gustus. Dismas was the robber who was crucified on Jesus right side, and Gustus on his left side.

In the coming few weeks, I would like to beg your indulgence , as we will examine these men, and their circumstances. Stay with me.. I hope you enjoy our journey together !

May God give you the gift of His peace… .

See What Love The Father Has For Us !

July 15, 2017

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us, in letting us be called children of God !
Tet that is what we are. The reason the world does not recognize us, is that it never recognized the Son.
Dearly Beloved, we are God’s Children now; what we shall be after, has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope based on Him keeps himself pure, as He is pure. ” ( 1 John 3:1-3 )

It is easy for us in our worldly presence, trying to live a spiritual life, to get bogged down, with not only the imperfections of others, but even our own. We are frustrated by the way we get treated by others, or how others are treated , even by people we know and love.

Our employers, our boss, our friends, our family, other brothers and sisters, heck, we don’t even really treat ourselves the way we should. Possibly, it is we who find ourselves in the situation that we have failed to treat others the we should, either by circumstance, or emotion, our own personal failings.

It would be very easy for us to fall into the pit of despair or depression because of the way the world can treat us. We do, however, have reason for our joy !

Look at John… all those years ago… talking to brothers and sisters who are fearful, disheartened, maybe a bit disillusioned. He is reminding them of the great gift they have received. Just as the 12 were also fearful, disheartened, and in some cases disillusioned at the setbacks in their own walks.

John reminds us that the world will not recognize us as its brothers and sisters, as children of God, because it did not recognize God in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. It is no wonder we are still fighting today, to try to get people to recognize God in our brothers and sisters. Children who were born with the imprint of the Most High !

How can we expect for the broken world, who did not recognize God, who was before them, to see God in the poor, the suffering, the aged, and those who are marginalized, even in our own brothers and sisters.

Possibly, it is because the world is not unlike Herod , who feared the Son of God when He came to earth, because the world has tried to claim for itself, something that does not belong to it, and in fear of losing the things that is has tried to take from God, or from the children of God, that it puts in place the machinery of sin to try to keep glory for itself.

At the same time, Brothers and Sisters, take heart ! For even if the world does not recognize us for who and what we are, we are in good company. It is up to us to continue to carry on the fight for good and right, for faith and hope, and mostly for peace, and love. It is important for us never to give in to despair, and sin. These are tools that Satan uses to try to separate us from God.

John reminds us that at the end of this earthly battle, we have something even greater that awaits us.
We have all had moments when the Spirit inflames us, and our hearts are afire with the love of God and everything in the world seems right, peaceful, and loving. So much more, then, will it be for us when we get to see God.

This is when we will get to see God face to face, Our loving Father. We will be the prodigal children, returning home, to the Father, who will rejoice with us.

The last part of the reading, John sticks in a final reminder..

” Everyone who has this hope, based on Him, keeps himself pure… as He is pure.”

This reminder is reminiscent of Jesus’ reminder to the disciples to “Be Holy even as your Father is Holy” (Matthew 5:48 , 1 Peter 1:16 )

This is to say that even in this daily world of suffering and strife, we are to carry on in doing what the Lord showed us while He was here on earth, and that is , to Love.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

May You Attain Full Knowledge …

June 18, 2017

“May you attain full knowledge of God’s will through perfect wisdom, and spiritual insight. Then you will lead a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every way. You will multiply good works of every sort and grow in the knowledge of God. By the might of His glory you will be endowed with the strength needed to stand fast, even to endure joyfully what ever may come, giving thanks to the Father for having made you worthy to share the lot of the saints in light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Colossians 1:9-13

This passage from scripture is the opening lines of encouragement from the Apostle Paul, who was writing to the Colossians, along with Timothy who was traveling with Paul. What comes before this passage though is subtle, but noteworthy. Paul recognizes Epaphas, who he recognizes as a ” fellow servant”, or disciple of Christ. What is also important to note here is that there is no recorded point in time where Paul ever actually went to Colossea. Instead, Paul taught the true faith to Epaphas, who converted, learned and then took that seed of faith and returned home to Colossea, and spread it through the countryside converting the people and passed that faith to the people and the future saints who lived there.

So, you say to yourself, great ! So what does that mean for us here ? Glad you asked !

It is important because Paul did not have to go and hold the hand of Epaphas in order to pass on the light of faith and the Word. Paul had faith in the seed he planted. It really had little to do with Epaphas. Although, Epaphas did have an open heart, and believed the Word when he heard it. Paul trusted that Word would spread. Just as Jesus, entrusted the twelve apostles, who in and of themselves were not perfect, did not always have perfect faith, but still trusted in the seed of faith that they were given..

This idea of having the pure seed of faith being transmitted to others in a sometimes imperfect manner is pretty much how it goes. This should give us encouragement in the faith that we have received and to participate more fully in the charge that we are given to pass on this faith as Epaphas did. We don’t have to do it perfectly, we just have to do it. We also don’t need the sledgehammer approach, where we are pounding the seed into the skull of the person receiving it… All we have to do is plant the seed, and walk away.

We have to have faith that the seed we plant, is what God will use for His will. The seed that is planted, will not always bloom before our eyes. We may never get the opportunity to see the results of the seeds we plant. We must trust in God. We must trust that the Lord will use the seeds we plant in the continuum of His divine will.

The beginning of this passage says “may you attain full knowledge of God’s will through perfect wisdom and spiritual insight…” Maybe the saints eventually ended up at this place, but for the rest of us, this is the destination, and the journey is where we spend our time… at least if we make the effort.

Much like the planting of those seeds of faith, where at times we may get to see a glimpse of the results, possibly the beginnings of the results of our labors, we will likely never see the complete result, or even understand what it is that will occur as a result of that work, which would be in Gods will for mankind. The one truth that we know about Gods will to an absolute certainty is that Gods plan for us is as basic as the first truth we learned as children. God’s will for us is to …. know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.. so that we can be with Him in Heaven.
Ask someone who is your elder, if the life that they currently have, is the life that they dreamed of, or planned for in their youth. If their lives were the same now as what they had planned for it to be maybe after high school, or even after college ( if they went to college and attended after high school).

I would venture to say that nearly none of them can say that their lives turned out as they originally planned. This is the difference between where mans will differs from God’s will. We could attempt to understand, or discern where God had a hand in the things that have occurred in our lives, It is even possible that we could see a facet of how things happened the way that they did. This enlightenment is not just for our own understanding. This enlightenment is there so that we have the opportunity to not only be enriched in our own faith,, but to fulfill our mission to share that faith with others just as Epaphas did in Collosea.

God can take the one small seed, one small act of faith, and use that one act to help bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. This is what Paul was praying for and encouraging the Colossians towards… and what I encourage you towards today, the same way that Saint Francis did hundreds of years ago… Preach the gospel at all times.. and when necessary, use words..

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Mind Your Business….

June 9, 2017

“Anyone who would not work, should not eat. We hear that some of you are unruly, not keeping busy but acting like busy-bodies. We enjoin all such, and we urge them strongly in the Lord Jesus Christ, to earn the food they eat by working quietly. You must never grow weary of doing what is right, brothers”. ( 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 ).

In this letter Paul is writing to the community because there are people who are not really doing their part and are taking the time from the work they should be doing, and instead making themselves busy dealing with affairs of others.

In the world today, much is said of those who are not gainfully employed, or under employed. The world looks at these souls and judge them. They are judge to be lazy, guilty of sloth. They just don’t want to work. Indeed, there are those who were brought up not to value work at all, or were taught not to value certain types of work, because they were considered somehow “less” or not really something to be desired.

Society has been equally disowning of people who have been challenged in their educational processes.

In fact, we still struggle in this area. We understand, for instance, that different people learn by differing methods. We have not gotten to a point where we can effectively transform that knowledge into the individual student. How they learn, and then transform that into an educational process that works for that student.

There are budget concerns.. ” We can’t possibly create individual plans for each and every students!.. We simply can’t afford either the staff, or the budget concerns.” This is a common issue in education. Then those who do not learn in the traditional ways, are by and large, relegated to “lesser” jobs. They are told, ” You don’t have what it takes to go to college… you should find a trade , or go to work in retail or fast food. You might not think this goes on today. You would be wrong.

But I digress…

The problem we have, is that work is today, not something of value for most people. The employers, do not value the work of the people who work for them. They value instead the spreadsheet. The statistics that look nice and green. As long as those numbers look right, and positive, then everything is fine. Otherwise, there are only numbers and that the shoulders are broad enough to receive the pat on the back approvals of those closest. The company ( or owners ) no longer feel any obligation towards those people who toil in their firms.. after all they are numbers… replaceable, something that is replaceable in very little time with another body eager to fill it. Who spend their time “dumbing down” the process so it is easier to replace the last body that fell under the wheel of their taskmasters whip. For them their world is “gray”…. no black or white… just the gray of how the story is spun.

There are employees who, no longer have a work ethic. Who do not care about the job they do. Who’s sole concern is how little it is possible to do, in order to keep a paycheck. They do not care about the tools they are given, or the people for whom this work is done. As long as their numbers are passable, that go up to the “ivory tower” of management, then its good enough. There is no loyalty to the company that they work for, because they already know the company has no loyalty or care for them as people.

So why should we care about work ?

Work, is a gift from God. We work in order to gain a just wage. It is through that work, that we gain a just wage through which , we tithe. Tithing is not just money. Tithing is time, talent and treasure. That thing which we offer to God, through our family, through our brothers and sisters, and as a way to sanctify our day.

Paul is also quick to instruct the Thessalonians to conduct themselves in an upright and honorable way.

We too, should spend our efforts in public and in private, working on our own sanctification. It is through this type of work. Working honorably, and justly; working on our own sanctification, will be the greatest tool we have at our disposal to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Will we falter ? Sure we will. Will we slip ? Of course we will. It is not how we FALL,… but how we RISE !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Daily Trials… Yours and Mine.

February 25, 2017

Daily Trials… Yours and Mine.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you ” ( John 15 1:3)

It does not matter where it is that you are, or where it is that you believe that you are on your spiritual journey in this life, because no matter there you are, there are trials.

These trials are either great , or by our human perception small. Sometimes we ask for them, ( Lord, grant me patience…) some happen without our asking…

No matter where you are on your journey, if you spend time, either great or small, in the efforts of moving forward on your journey towards God, you will have trials. You may make those little daily promises to yourself, or have those conversations in prayer, where you say to yourself, I will be more patient, I will be more loving, I will let the light of Christ shine through me today and let them see Him and NOT me …

And then the day starts…

At the end of the day here we are again… right back where we were yesterday, feeling defeated, feeling that ashamed… feeling that in the points of the day where we were tried, we failed and we let that fallen very human temperment come out and in our rather annoyed, rather human, rather self – filled moment, we fell short of the goal we had at the beginning of the day… And so the cycle begins again.

Possibly, you have a cross that is more serious. Possibly you have physical challenges, or health challenges that are limiting in some human facet. You may ask God why ?…. Why you can’t be like others. Why you are not able to do what others do. Why you may feel isolated …. angry.. confused.. challenged.

You may be going through a difficult time in your relationship with someone else. Possibly they do not understand you.. or you do not understand them. You may not like what they are doing, or that they are doing nothing at all, or you are not.

In my younger years, if I was having issues that were apparent, my mother might ask what was wrong, and then after explaining the situation, she would say “Life is a matter of perspectives…” and leave me to ponder that idea.

In this Gospel reading, John is giving us a parable, showing us that God is the caretaker of the vineyard of our lives. God loves us, and cares for us, like the vines. In the course of our lives we have adversities of every shape and size. Those adversities are Gods way of pruning the vine of our souls.
To make us spiritually healthy. Those adversities we face are allowed for our greater good. For our virtue, and grace.

There was one of our sisters, Kathleen, who was elderly and in a nursing home, and I used to go visit as often as I was able. She used to say, that she was not sure why she ended up in the nursing home that she was in, but while she was there, she knew it was Gods plan for her to proclaim His message to others who were there with her. Sometimes, nursing homes can be a place of isolation, and a place of desperation and loneliness, as the world they were once a part of, goes on outside their walls. Family and friends, do not have time to visit with the obligations in their lives… at least as often as might make them feel comfortable.

Like our sister Kathleen, it is up to us to have the perspective that where ever we are, it is where God desires us to be for our own spiritual health and growth, or for the spiritual growth and health of those you become witness to or for.

We don’t always know, and we might not know until we are all in Heaven together one day. Until then, ,do not fear the struggles and trials of this life. Instead, find the opportunity to allow Christ to shine through the challenges, to allow Him to grow, and to share love with all you meet.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

+Ad Majorem Gloria Dei +

Blessed are the Clean of Heart…

October 29, 2016

“Blessed are the clean of heart,

for they will see God. ” (Matthew 5: 8)

 

The Beatitudes are primarily a lesson for the church on how, not unlike the 10 commandments, we should live out our time on this Earth and consider to a larger extent the actions that are either laid down before us, or those which have already passed, or where we might have failed to be the best examples of Christ to others that we should be.

To a certain degree we have no real appreciable difference in our day, of the types of challeneges that they had in biblical times. Sure, the situation surrounding the challenges have changed, but we still have the same type of issues.

We need to live, we need food and water. We have relationships with others. We are married, single, and celibate. We are employers, and employees, business people, governors, or govern-ees if you will. We have Celebrations and pains, people live and people die. There is good and evil in the world. In the end it all comes down to how it is that you live your life…the choices that you make.

 

In this portion of the beatitudes, we are told that the clean or pure of heart will see God. How is it then, that we have clean hearts particularly with all the challenges we face on a daily basis.

In part, the answer lies in the Psalms. In Psalm 73 is some of the clues.

” But, as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;

my steps had nearly slipped,

3 Because I was envious of the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For they suffer no pain;

their bodies are healthy and sleek.

5 They are free of the burdens of life;

they are not afflicted like others.

6 Thus pride adorns them as a necklace;

violence clothes them as a robe.

7 Out of such blindness comes sin;

evil thoughts flood their hearts.

8 They scoff and spout their malice;

from on high they utter threats.

9 They set their mouths against the heavens,

their tongues roam the earth.

10 So my people turn to them

and drink deeply of their words.

11 They say, “Does God really know?”

“Does the Most High have any knowledge?”

12 Such, then, are the wicked,

always carefree, increasing their wealth. ”

 

Take careful note that one of the lessons here in this Psalm is that in the very

beginning Asaph, who is the origin of this Psalm, writes, that he is first noting the struggle that he has within. Much like each of us who try to walk the path of

faith we are challenged, and we fall, and we stumble..

What’s more, he then proceeds to share with us all the places he stumbled.. and you can also see in his writing the struggle he feels as he works through these challenges knowing in his heart that he needs to be free of these feelings.

Which of us does not struggle this way ?… In verse 10 where he says ,

” and my people drink of their words”. Look around the world today and see

where the people are who are lost, who “drink” the words of the world that spurn

the world forward moving through the sin of abortion, euthanasia, drugs, violence, and ever other imaginable evil that plagues us.

These were the challenges even before Christ came into the world and yet here we are thousands of years later, and we still have not learned these simple lessons.

We have not advanced in pushing these sins out of our lives. So the question remains.

It is in the struggles, and in the challenges, that is the furnace, where the metal of our souls are tempered and formed into souls worthy of the name.

Ad Majorem Gloria Dei !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

All Is Not As It Seems…

September 10, 2016

All is not as it seems..

A few months ago, I noticed a change in the neighborhood.  There was a house, that at one time was being used for one man, who lived there, but also ran a plumbing business out of it.  THe house was sparsely furnished, and the plumber who lived there seemed to be quiet, and only on an odd occasion would have friends over and have a get together with his friends or possibly they were employees.. but they did not seem like employees.

Anyway, one day while I was on my walk to work, I noticed a “For Sale” sign in the front yard.  I never saw anyone going there to tour the house, and not much later the sign came down.   Approximately a month later, all of a sudden the house we filled with about 4 or 5 older gentlemen, and the only vehicle that was there was a white unmarked van.    Walking past the house a couple of times a day, The people who lived there would say hello as I passed.

During those moments where I passed, I began to wonder who they were and why they were there all the time.

One Friday afternoon, while I was on my way home they invited me over to share a beer with them.  I explained that I did not want a beer, however, I would come over and sit down and visit with them for a while.  They instead offered some water, which I greatfully accepted.

Some of them, because of the Tau Cross I wear, asked me if I was “one of those church people who wanted to convert them,,,,”.  We have a number of different religious groups who frequent the neighborhood knocking on doors and asking to share their faith with us.
We also have them not only in English, but also in Spanish by well meaning folks who only speak a single language.

I proceeded to explain to them that I am still working on fixing the things that need fixing within myself, rather than trying to fix others, but if I could help someone else on their journey, then I would happy to share.

Once we got past that hurdle, they were all very warm and inviting, and would greet me as I passed on my way to or from work.  If I was not in a hurry, I would stop and talk for a bit and see what was going on.

Soon I finally learned what was going on with the people who lived there and how it came to be their home.  It seems that these men, were all homeless veterans, and one city employee, who owned the house, had provided the house to these men, so they could transition back into what ever their normal life was, prior to their homelessness.

In talking with these men, I learned a little about their journeys.  One of them, used to get up early in the morning, and would greet me every morning, and in his way attempt to give me encouragement for the days journey.  On the way home he was always there waiting to welcome me back home.  A few times, he waited for me to pass the house, and joined me in my walk to the bus stop.  In those walks, I learned that he was going to visit his family from whom he was estranged.  He was taking food, and going to do work at the house and help out the family.  He said it was not much, but it was everything he could do in showing his love for them.

One day the man was not there any more. He was gone for a couple of days and there was no one outside to greet me on my walk.  A few days ago one of them was sitting outside as I passed on my journey home, and I asked him what happened to the other gentleman, as I had not seen him for a while.  He explained that the man had returned home to his family and they had moved north together to begin rebuilding their lives again.
The point is that in the beginning of this journey, the very human view, might have been to be afraid of these people because they could have been any type of criminal, or addict.   It would be easy to judge from outward appearances that these would be people who were not desirable to have living in your neighborhood.

Investing ones time and effort in reaching out by inviting conversation, by hospitality,
by being open to anothers story, we can break down the walls of assumption, or appearances, and learn the true heart of the other.

Love, is the lesson.  Love of neighbor. Love of “the other” in our lives. These are the things that bring about the opportunities to share Christ with others.  Not by force, not by abuse, and not by the use of methods that are more akin to winning a battle or war.  Sharing Christ is done first, through acts of love that we share.
May God give you the gift of His peace !

Asceticism and Self-Control … Get a hold of yourself man !

September 2, 2016

I find it interesting that when most people talk about the fruits of the Holy Spirit, when they get to listing through them, this always gets the label of “Self-Control”.

That is correct, it is how it is listed, but what does that really mean ?

In a world that seems to celebrate extremes in nearly every sense of the word, how is the idea of self-control even apply ? How does one make that work ?

I like to consider self-control, more in terms of self-mastery. Let me explain.

One never truly attains self-mastery. It is instead, like life an experiential process.

Consider this… In our earthly, physical lives, we spend a vast amount of time trying to gain control of our physical bodies. We were potty trained. It was experiential.

We experienced loss. Loss or separation from our parent, or sibling. Possibly we learned that we could not eat foods that made us sick. We had to learn to walk.

We all had to learn as children going through the “terrible two’s” to control our temperament. It also was an experiential process.

In much the same way, our faith life is also very experiential. There is the faith lessons we learn from our parents, and from our ministers, friends or other family members. We take those lessons, and ply those against the world that we understand, or at least have experience with.

How many times have we gone to Mass, and heard the same stories, the same scriptures over and over again, but somehow, it becomes new to us, a facet of the story rings out and touches us because of the experiences we are having in our lives right this moment.

We learn, we experience, we re-learn, and we (hopefully) develop a small bit of self-control.

Asceticism, deals with the giving up of temporal pleasures, but this is only half the story. The other half is the reigning in of ones will, and of ones mind.

Self-control is a bit like Lent. In the beginning of our spiritual lives, a young person may see Lent strictly in the light of the idea that they need to discipline their physical bodies by giving up things. Its strictly an idea of abstinence, or giving up something because “its the rule… Its what we do”.

Later on however, as we grow in faith, we come to the understanding that it’s not just about the thing you’re giving up, it is also a spiritual exercise. Moving from just giving things up, to sharing the love of Christ with our brothers and sisters, and giving those gifts back to God in praise and thanksgiving.

When we take that time, to really dig deep, and clear out the closets and cobwebs in our spiritual lives, and form our own will, our own thoughts and desires, to conform with the will of God, THEN we gain steps on the journey of self-control.

As part of Saint Francis’ Peace prayer goes.. “It is in dying (to self) that we are born to eternal life ”

May God give you the gift of His peace !