Bring Hope

 

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Over the past few years, I have come into contact and helped quite a few homeless individuals; some become familiar faces while others I never see again. One man, in particular, James*, I have known for about two years, and he always asks for the same thing. In the summer he would like ice, drink, and food, and during the winter, some warm coffee, to heat some food and maybe a blanket. Recently he came in to ask for his usual fill-up of ice and water but asked me to call him an ambulance. It turns out that he was suffering from heat stroke, his body was hurting all over, and he was suffering from chest pains. When the ambulance came to pick him up, he asked me to please put his drink carrier into his back pack, and that is when it truly struck me, all this man had in his entire existence was this backpack.

He has told me before that he lives under the bridge and he was always in search of food and water, but it never struck me just exactly what that looked like. Now at this moment I felt moved by such emotion I could have cried (and trust me I’m not a crier). I think back to how many times I complained that it is too hot or cold, when I have a heater and air conditioner, or how much I want something too expensive when I already have enough. This man had all his belongings in a backpack and never really had the opportunity to cool off from the heat, only when he was near death. When he was laying there, I told him that he was not just a person to me but rather family because he truly doesn’t have anyone else. I think of all the people I am blessed to have in my life but her this man, on the brink of death, probably feels completely and utterly alone.

The homeless and poor should not be defined by the situation they are in, and I have told this to James before. We view them as lazy beggars, which in some cases could be true but we do not know the entire circumstance of everyone’s situation. We don’t have that kind of power to judge someone in that sense, that is not our place at all. I am always reminded of the verse found in Matthew 25:35-36 “For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me”.

Granted, I understand that every situation is different and not all homeless people are nice. I have encountered people who were very violent and aggressive, but it does not stop me. I always feel that if we have the Holy Spirit guiding us then we will be okay. We live in a society where people are dehumanized, and life is taken for granted. Think of how different and better the world would be if we cared about human beings as much as we cared about getting a brand-new car or the next best cellphone. We need more love in the world and it starts with the willingness to see humans as being made in the image of God, therefore each and every one of us is priceless.

Dear Jesus,

Help me to see people as you did,
That they are to be loved, nurtured and cared for.
Help me to be a beacon of your light,
In a world that is darkened by the stain of materialism.
Help me to be a friend to those who have none,
And a glimmer of hope for the hopeless.
Amen.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity.

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I’ll Take a Helping of Bravery Please, Leave the Doubt

 

Although I have a ton of favorite Christian artists because they are all so amazing, Casting Crowns has a special place in my heart. I remember receiving their first album Casting Crowns for Christmas, back when it was such a novelty to get a CD. That thing received a lot of play on my portable CD player and my regular CD player! Kids today will never know the complete and utter feeling of despair that arises when a scratch appears on your CD…okay, I may be exaggerating…a little. My dad and I saw them in concert 3 times, which was without a doubt an awesome experience.

Their song What if I Gave Everything strikes a familiar chord with many Christians I imagine. The first verse pretty much sums up what we all want to accomplish “All my life I longed to be a hero” then “Be a man you would write about”. We could be sitting on our couch, computer, at work, even in Church, when we get this overwhelming desire to run out and change the world. We see poverty, murder, people blaspheming God, our faith, etc. and we’re hit with an epiphany to change it. Suddenly we envision ourselves fighting injustice, clothing all the homeless, saving little babies in foreign countries, rebuilding homes. Then we imagine, “oh how they’ll talk” and you dream about what your face will look like on the Time Magazine Person of the Year cover. You’ll do the rounds of all the morning and late night talk shows, be the featured guest at all the parties and be recognized as the person who saved the world.

So Why am I Still Standing Here? Then reality strikes and we finish doing whatever we were up to prior to the epiphany. We realize that we were simply daydreaming and the hope of trying becomes overwhelmingly difficult. We should never want to change the world because we think it will bring us some kind of exposure. Doing the right thing makes us feel good and that is completely okay but don’t do it simply to relish the praise of others.

Then we run into the other issue of feeling like we are somehow inadequate to do the right thing. That we can’t do it because we are not good enough, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If we let our Faith lead us then we are going to be able to accomplish what we hope to. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our salvation, suffering and death upon the cross. If we focus on the Stations of the Cross and watch Jesus’ journey to attain our salvation, then how can we not walk in faith?

My favorite verse of the whole song is – so afraid what it might cost to follow You, I’d walk by faith if I could get these feet to move. Being Christian can cause us a lot of problems within this world, chastisement, lost friendship, persecution, and even death. Maximilian Kolbe, one of the heroes of our faith knew all too well what it was like to claim and stick to being Christian. It brought death and one that he was more than willing to pay because he walked with faith even unto death. One of his most prolific quotes that can guide us:

No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs [e.g. the sacrifice of many victims] of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?

If we fully believe in our faith, if we fully believe in Jesus Christ, if we fully believe in God, then we can walk by faith. We can change the world, maybe not in a dramatic way, or even in a way that others around the world will notice. That is not what it’s about because ultimately it is a ripple effect. You do one good act, then gradually others become inspired to do good acts.

So I leave you with one of the final verses:
What if I gave everything?
What if I stopped holding back from You?
Starting now, I’m stepping out onto deeper waters
What if I gave everything?
What if I stopped holding back from You?
Starting now, I’m stepping out onto deeper waters
I want to see some mountains move

Share Your Story

Saint Paul, out of all the Apostles, continues to be my favorite. There are quite a few reasons as to why but the most prominent is how I can relate to him. We all have stories and scars to share, some a bit more deep than others. It is Paul’s conversion that resonates so deeply to what we all can attain. We’re not perfect, far from it truthfully, but we should always strive to do better. It doesn’t mean that one day everything will be perfect but you at least know you’re doing the right thing.

Paul was not wholesome in his beginning days, to put it bluntly he was a killer of Christians. He belonged to the sect of Jews known as the Pharisees, a rather strict group who held firmly to the traditional Jewish beliefs. After what can be described as a slap-in-the-face awakening, Paul experienced a powerful vision from Jesus Christ. After this vision he did a complete 180 and actively worked to bring Christ’s message to people.

Christianity is not easy, as Paul found out; he was attacked, jailed, harassed and eventually martyred all because he was Christian. Christ told us Himself that because we don’t belong to this world we will always face a struggle. We often see this when we face our own trials that seem to come at a never ending pace. We must always hold on to the hope that Jesus gave us when He died on the Cross. That eternal salvation would be ours if we stayed the course and overcame the temptations.

A good friend of mine told me that life is a participation sport, you can either play or sit on the sidelines. The same can be said about Christianity, we either watch or we participate. We have to actively be seeking to better ourselves, to reach out to others and to also spread Christ’s message to the rest of the world. We have to actively be living our faith and not simply talking about it. You can say you’re a Christian but you have to show that you are. This is done by being kind to others, not having an ego, clothing the naked, feeding the poor, etc.

We should never be ashamed to share our past because it could help others who are struggling with the same issues as you. At first it can be daunting, I know it was for me. When we look at what we’ve been through, whether from our choices or life circumstances, we can use it to make us stronger. Saint Paul didn’t let his past stop him but rather he used it to propel him forward. He was on fire with the Holy Spirit but he wasn’t born that way. None of us (with the exception of Jesus and the Blessed Mother of course) are born perfect. Neither will any of us truly attain perfection until we make it to Heaven.

Many of the Saints struggled at first with their past, the chains that bound them. Saint Augustine, Saint Francis, Saint Mary of Egypt, etc. As Saint Augustine so eloquently stated “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” We are in a very special time right now, Lent. This is a time of deep reflection and repentance. Look at where you’ve been and realize how far you’ve come, you are a child of God. So share your story, let your voice be heard and become a participator of Christianity. Saint Paul – Pray for Us.

Dear Jesus,
Your words speak so profoundly to me,
Help me to truly let them play in my life.
Help me to share the story of my beginning,
To become like Saint Paul and spread your message.
You bestow upon me special graces,
Help me to open my eyes and heart to attain them
Amen

 

 

New Year Promise

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The New Year is almost here and the first few weeks of the month are filled with a sense of having to accomplish all your New Year resolutions. By the time February rolls around everyone’s lost their steam and then we wait until next year to attempt more resolutions, only this time we resolve to be more steadfast in our resolutions. It’s an endless cycle that goes around each year, so how do we become successful? It’s really easy, put Christ first!

When we decided to become true followers of Christ, we set ourselves up for a difficult road. “We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one” 1 John 5:19. With that understanding, the evil one hates-with-a-capital-H anything that has to do with God – most specifically Jesus Christ. Simply because of who He is and most importantly because of what He stands for, Salvation.

When we make resolutions for the New Year we have to make sure that they align with what Christ would want for us. For example, let’s say you vow you want to go into the New Year and enjoy life to the fullest. There’s no specific goal or idea, just you wanting to do what you want and have fun. The big red flag here is the focus on you. We talked previously in a post about JOY – Jesus Others and Yourself. When you live your life like that, then you will find true joy. So, we should look at a New Year resolution as how can I better myself through Christ. So this resolution won’t actually bring any real lasting joy or you may find yourself not being able to accomplish as much as you wanted.

Some common resolutions are weight loss, spending more time with family, travel more, get a new hobby, etc. These can all be really great resolutions but make sure you are doing them for the right reason. If you want to travel more, travel to areas you are not familiar with and bring some evangelizing materials along with you. If funds and time permit make a pilgrimage to some religious shrines. If you want to lose weight and be healthy, that’s perfectly okay and actually quite important. However, again make sure that you are doing it to be healthy for a pure purpose and not so you can look good in a bikini for the upcoming swimsuit season. If you want to spend more time with your family, start adding in family prayer, read the Bible together and if you are able to, go to weekday masses as well.

When you put Christ in the center of your life, even your New Year resolutions, then you will be successful. Just remember, don’t ever get despairing if things aren’t coming together exactly as you had planned or how quickly as you had planned. We have to keep our head up, keep on moving and try the best we can. This is a New Year and a new opportunity for you to become Christ centered and become the way that Jesus wants you.

Dear Jesus,
Please help me to completely dedicate my life to You,
Give me the courage to do all things through you.
If it is Your will, then please let me be successful with my New Year resolutions.
I give You glory and praise.
Amen

Gods Will, Not Mine

 

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When tragedy strikes the first thing many do is question why God would want to do something like that. Whether it be a horrible accident or a tragic situation where a child is diagnosed with cancer. The first question always rings, “why God?”

We know God is all powerful but we unfairly place too much blame on Him and not enough on the situation. It is often a misunderstood phrase to say it is Gods will. We should make something very clear though – it was never Gods will for death. When Adam and Eve were first created, His will for them was worship and thanksgiving. God gave them everything, provided them with endless food, water, things to make them comfortable. There were no tornado threats, murders, animal mauling’s or sickness. There simply was endless adoration for a God that loved His people so much He was literally willing to give them the world.

Then these two people, in their pride, ate of the fruit from the tree of life. The one tree 16a2cc65c4a7b9dc2214cca30ff08841--christian-pictures-words-quotesthat God commanded them to not eat from. When you think about this, it really wasn’t too much to ask of them. And no, it wasn’t God setting them up for failure by tempting them with something that was right there yet unattainable. Rather, it goes much deeper than that.

What is faith? In the basic form it is a belief in God; much deeper it is knowing and believing that God WILL provide even if it is not the way we think it should be. Now, is it faith if everything is simply handed but there is no return? What I mean by this is, if the faith is simply in what is being given to them but there is nothing for them to prove their faith. In having them not eat of that one tree, He was seeing if their faith was because of love or simply convenience. Did they love Him because He is the creator or because of the things He gave them?

In eating of that tree they let their pride envelop them much like satan had previously. Their faith was not strong enough to shield them from the temptation that had come slithering in. If their faith was based on pure love then there would be no room in their heart for pride and disobedience. Does this mean they had no love for God? Of course not. But their love was not pure and had conditions. This is what caused them to be banished from the Garden of Eden and caused death to enter into the world.

God's Plan2God’s will from the very beginning of creation was about love, adoration and obedience. In the Old Testament we get a very clear picture of God’s rage but why did He have rage in the first place? His creation had turned on Him, yet again. It was a justifiable anger because what He commanded was not followed. That has to be extremely wounding for anyone, especially God. We see God as this wrath filled Being who asks for complete mindless following and often times His requests are seen as difficult. This is a completely wrong way to view Gods relationship with us!

What we fail to see is everything that God has gone through. How many times He had been betrayed, not just by Adam and Eve but the devil himself. Creation had turned against Him but He was not going to destroy it. How many of us have started working on something, only to not like the outcome so we start over or completely abandon the project for something new? God didn’t. Instead, He still blesses us with miracles and gives each of us a mission to accomplish.

God’s will isn’t necessarily for bad things to happen but His hope is that your faith will remain through bad times. He permits things to happen because is it truly faith if everything goes according to your plan. If things are always bright sunshine, then you’ll eventually lose sight of what completely relying on God is.

Dear God,
Please help me to fully accept Your will,
To fully surrender all doubt, worry and fear I may feel.
Give me the strength to stand firm in my beliefs,
Even when it seems nearly impossible.
This road may get weary and dark,
But I will always remember that I don’t travel alone.
Amen

The Eucharist

 

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There are quite a few differences between Catholicism, which is the Church started by Jesus Christ, and the protestant splinters, but one is more significant than the rest – the Eucharist. The entire Catholic Mass is centered on the beautiful sacrament of the Eucharist. We believe that the bread and wine transform into the body and blood of our savior Jesus Christ. Although I should use the term we loosely because over 60% of Catholics don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

 

untitled.pngWhy could such a heart wrenching number of Catholics not believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ? The answer lies within the Mass itself.

 

Every Catholic knows that the formation then implementation of the Second Vatican Council brought about some major changes. Directly impacting the Mass itself, and not in a positive way. There were six Protestants leaders who had a direct impact on aspects of the Mass. This is affirmed by Fr. Annibale Bugnini, the author of the Novus Ordo, “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants…”

 

 Let’s say there are two friends, Jeff and Dan, who like to make pottery together. Dan decides he doesn’t agree with the materials used in pottery making so he starts making art canvases. At every turn he disagrees with Jeff, even going so far to try and discredit Jeff with his pottery making. Dan then gets more friends on board with him but then they decide to turn against Dan, each going their own separate ways. Then you have Jeff who was staying strong in his convictions about pottery making. He begins to waver because he wants to still be friends with Dan and the others who left, so he starts painting pottery on Canvases to please the others.

 

Moral of the story? The Mass should never have been changed to accompany those who broke away from the truth. Protestant groups are praising the new Mass, going so far as to say they are acceptable in their Churches. Does anyone else see the extreme error of this? Why should Christ’s Church change to accompany those that are preaching heresies? eucharist-300x200

 

This is a huge reason why 29% of Catholics have adopted the John Zwingli theology that the Mass merely is an act of symbolism of Jesus. While 24% hold on to the Calvinist theology that the bread and wine transform into the body and blood because of their faith.

 

Mass is an obligation but it shouldn’t be treated merely as something we’re supposed to do but something we should want to do. It is a small chunk of time for an enormous sacrifice that Jesus made for us. All He asks is for an hour of our time and an hour during Holy Days of Obligation. I’ve witnessed before a very nonchalant attitude towards Mass, people chewing gum, looking at their cell phones, etc. Then when going up to receive communion, it’s as if some have no idea what they are about to partake in. This is the true presence of Jesus Christ, how can you not bow down to the King? We must again teach the importance of Mass, the importance of Communion and the importance of being Catholic. If not, I am afraid these numbers will continue to increase and the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist will be forgotten. Where does that leave Jesus? Alone in a Tabernacle, forgotten by those very people He came to save.

 

I leave you with this:

 

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” – Jesus. John 6:53-58

 

Dear Jesus,

 

Please give me strength to stand strong in the faith I have in You,

 

To spread the message to others who are hardened to it.

 

I may come face to face with adversity,

 

But help me to remember that You did as well.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Let Lent Live On

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Lent is a time of reflection and sacrifice because it allows us to get closer to God. Hopefully, now that we are so far into Lent you are starting to understand in a deeper sense how sacrifice can help you grow closer to God. All too often we get consumed with the idea of what to give up for Lent, and that usually ends with sweets, carbs and soda. This is great if those things hold a huge place in your heart, if they are some of your favorite foods and drinks, then definitely do that!

When I say we get consumed with what to give up, we often don’t talk about what to gain. Did you give up social networking for Lent? Use that time to pray. Did you give up sweets and soda for Lent? You can use the money that would have purchased those items and instead donate to a charity or buy food for the homeless.

The point is to try and lessen things in our lives that separate us from attaining a more cherished relationship with God. We can incorporate these things into our lives even after Lent is over. Lent may occur for only 46 days but the purpose of it stretches much longer than that.

The Passion our Lord endured for us has to be one of the most humbling things of our faith. Here, the Son of God didn’t have to die for us but He chose to. He didn’t just die, He was tortured, mocked and spit upon. All so that we could maybe one day attain glory with Him, if we accept and live by His teachings.

As I have said before, being a Christian is not easy in the least bit. It takes work, dedication and most importantly faith. No matter how bad things may be or how much worse they will get, we always hold on to the belief that Jesus rises above it. We sometimes fall into the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves but if we hold on to that then despair seeps in.

It isn’t that we should never feel the emotions that make us human but we should never let them completely consume us. Understanding that there is someone who loves you so much that they would give up their life so that you can find peace, is truly a comforting feeling. If you embrace it and accept Jesus into your heart, then you can have that feeling as well.

Even though Lent is almost over, use the spirit of Lent to further evangelize to others. Let Lent Live On (a tongue tier, I know, but something that is very true)

Dear God,

Help me to embrace suffering to save souls who are straying,

To be a vessel so you can work through me to change the world.

I want to bring your Word to those who don’t know it,

And to stay strong against those who don’t want it.

Amen