Thursday, February 08, 2018

God Challenges

Saint Jerome Emiliani, priest & Saint Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Mark 7:24-30

I love a good challenge. I love to be challenged to rise up and meet a difficult task. I often find that I create these challenges myself. I am currently working on an allegorical poem with an insane rhyming scheme. It usually takes me an hour or two to finish but eight lines but I love the challenge.

I must admit, however, that I have a melancholic temperament and sometimes challenges can overwhelm me. It's not that I can't overcome the challenge but rather that I often consider all the options in such detail that I become paralyzed, unable to begin. Instead of pushing forward and acting, I think too much and quickly become overwhelmed by the situation. It is at these times that I need to imitate the woman in today's Gospel.

It probably took a great deal of courage for this woman to approach Jesus, seeking an exorcism for her daughter. First, she had to seek Jesus out. He was basically looking for a break, a retreat of sorts. He was trying to hide for a little rest and relaxation. The homeowners where He was staying probably told the woman this but she persisted. Second, she was not only not a regular follower of Jesus, she wasn't even a Jew.

After overcoming the first two challenges she is given what appears to be a nasty insult from Our Lord, "For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." Here I would probably have walked away with my head down. I would probably have been disheartened and overwhelmed by my situation. But this woman simply brushes it off. In fact she uses His words against Him as she persists in her request. Our Lord's heart is won over by the faith and determination of this wonderful Gentile woman. His "insult" becomes a catalyst for her imploring Him all the more.

Lord Jesus, I know that nothing happens in my life without Your permission. I know that you love me and often that love comes in the form of difficulty and suffering. Give me the grace to accept the sufferings of my life. Help me to rise and meet the challenges You allow for my own good and for my growth. In short, Jesus, help me to carry my cross a little better each day without complaint.

FROM THE SAINTS - "Pernoctans in oratione Dei" - "He spent the whole night in prayer to God," says St. Luke of our Lord. And you? How many times have you persevered like that? Well, then...
- Saint Josemaria Escriva The Way #104

Monday, February 05, 2018

If Only

Saint Agatha, virgin & martyr

Mark 6:53-56

In my teen years I was filled with this phrase - if only. If only I had a car I could go and do what I wanted. If only I didn't have to go to school I'd be much happier. If only (insert desire) then (insert poorly perceived result).

Today's Gospel made me put these "if only" moments in perspective. In my "if only" moments I am usually acting in a faithless, selfish manner. Either I am trying make a deal with God or I am exhibiting a lack of faith that would make those in Nazareth take notice (cf. 6:1-6). Here, however, I find people swarming to meet Jesus. He is unable to find rest because of these people. And yet they are not making deals with Him. They are not promising to change their ways if only He will improve their lives. Rather, these faith-filled people are coming to find Jesus hoping that they "might touch only the tassel of His cloak."

This hunger, this desire for Christ is so strong and their faith in Him is so strong that all they are asking is that they might touch a part of his clothing. This sort of faith is exhibited throughout the scriptures. In Matthew's Gospel the Centurion has so much faith in the power of Jesus that he asks him to "only say the word and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8). Later in the same Gospel we hear of the woman who was suffering for years with hemorrhages who said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured" (Matthew 9:21). In the Acts of the Apostles we see that this power is passed on to the Church when crowds look for Saint Peter, "hoping only that his shadow might fall on one or another of them" (Acts 5:15).

Looking back on my life I feel as though I have been setting the conditions with God by my if only attitude. Yet today I see that He clearly says to me, "if only you had more faith..."

Lord Jesus, give me a simple faith. Give me a faith that is content with a touch of your garments or to have your shadow fall upon me. It is truly more than I deserve!

FROM THE SAINTS - "My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr's feast has brought us together. Agatha achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory. For her, Christ's death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. Agatha, the name of our saint, means "good." She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and her way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good, God alone."
from a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Most Ridiculous Commandment

Mark 2:23-28

Thou shalt rest. Thou shalt take it easy. Thou shalt relax, read, spend time with friends and family. Thou shalt spend time with Me for one day before going back to work.

How many of us have ever uttered these words or similar words? - I'm so busy, I need a break, If I only had some free time I would (insert favorite activity here). I always thought the third Commandment was sort of ridiculous. Who needs to be told to take a day off? Who needs to be told to not work? Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get out of work. Yet God, who knows His children best, saw fit to make one of the Ten Commandments tell us to take it easy.

Of course keeping Holy the Sabbath is not simply about being a couch potato. It is supposed to be a day of retreat. It is a day where we can duck out of the world and spend time with God and enjoy His gifts - creation, family, Scripture, etc.

I treasure my Sundays. That is my favorite day of the week. It is a day when we get up early, go to Mass, eat breakfast on the deck, go for a hike or go fishing, and end the day with a campfire or family rosary or both. When we can't get out and about, we institute an "electronics free day" and spend time reading, playing board games, or wrestling.

While some may live for the weekend I live for Sunday. I admit that it often does take some planning since we choose to refrain from shopping, dining out, etc. But I think that makes the day much more enjoyable. If we're going hiking at the state park we make sure our tank is filled on Saturday. If were cooking out or entertaining we get the extras during the weekly grocery trip. Then, come Sunday, no worries. I love it! It's like a weekly retreat. It's recreation in the true sense, re-creation - a chance to be re-created in God's image and likeness. Its a chance to love Him and enjoy His love.

So what was the big deal with what Jesus' disciples were doing? The Pharisees had taken a basic list of things that shouldn't be done on the Sabbath and expanded it to a 39 item list. So a simple command (in it's true sense and spirit) like "do not perform farm work on the Sabbath" becomes a ridiculous and anguish-filled command like "do not walk through a field of grain or even casually pick the grain to munch on for that is considered farm work."

Jesus is teaching the Pharisees, His disciples, and us that the law of charity must trump all other rules. He uses a story that they were very familiar with to prove His point (1 Samuel 21). Man's basic needs must come before ceremonial rules. Jesus shows that it is better that man be fed by picking grain on the Sabbath than starving to death on the Sabbath in order to keep a ceremonial law.

Lord Jesus, help me to truly rest in Your presence this coming Sunday. Give me the strength to deny my worldly interests for one day and focus on You and the gifts You have given for my benefit. Help me to retreat for a day and be recreated so that I might better serve you in the days that follow.

FROM THE SAINTS - "I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals, and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job." - Saint Josemaria Escriva

Monday, January 15, 2018

Newborn for Newborns

Monday January 22 marks the Day of Prayer for he Legal Protection of Unborn Children.  On Friday January 19th, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, race, color, and creed will
descend upon our Nation's Capital in peaceful protest of legalized abortion in our great country.  We should all be praying for the marchers, speakers, law enforcement, politicians, and opponents of life.

Of course being pro-life doesn't end when the baby is born.  We don't revel in another life only to turn our backs on this new life and the mother who bore him or her.  Being pro-life means supporting the choice for life before birth and supporting the mother and baby after birth.

The organization AND - Angels Nurture & Disciple does just that.  They help mothers and their babies in hundreds of ways.  Just some of the things they provide include - emergency housing, financial assistance, education, employment, childcare, spiritual guidance, and much, much more.

Our family feels strongly about the need for care of mothers and children after woman has chosen to keep her baby.  We want to help and we're sure you do too.

You can help by visiting the AND site and donating money, that's simple.

You can help by purchasing diapers for the kids, they'll be shipped via Amazon right to those in need.

You can shop our Real Life Rosary site.  If you purchase any item with the Newborn Twine Color, we'll donate the entire amount of that item to AND.

So, if you buy a Newborn Rosary, Chaplet, Keychain, Bracelet, etc, 100% of that item gets donated to AND.

Buy 10 Newborn rosaries for your Bible Study group, yeah, it all get's donated to AND.  It's what we call Newborn for Newborns and we'll do this until the end of January.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Unanswered Prayers

Luke 1:5-25

Whenever I take the time to look back on my life I am amazed at the goodness of God. Especially so in light of my wandering ways. When I look back at the things I asked for and what was given to me instead I am filled with praise and thanksgiving. Like the country song says, "some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."

Scripture tells us that God's ways are not our ways and sometimes this just plain stinks! Yet, God is a loving Father who knows what is best for us. He has a plan for us. And His plans, His ways, are always far better than ours.

In my younger days, before my conversion, I dreamed of a life of singing in a band. I dreamed of living on stage, in bars and clubs, and partying till the end. What a stupid dream! In fact, I think I even prayed, in my own twisted way, for these things. Thank God for a great big "NO". If God would have revealed to me His plan at that point in my life I would have laughed and said "thanks" but "no thanks." Now I can't imagine my life any other way. I can't imagine not being married to my wonderful wife and enjoying my beautiful children. His ways are far better than mine.

I am sure Zechariah and Elizabeth had many days to dream of what life would be like with children. I am sure they had ideas in their minds of what they would do with their child. They obviously prayed constantly, even in their old age, for a child. How disappointed they must have been as the years slipped slowly by and no child came. Yet God's ways far exceeded their dreams and ideas. I'm sure they never expected to have an angel announce that they would be given a child. I'm sure that they never thought that he would "be great before the Lord...filled with the Holy Spirit...turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God...or make ready for the Lord a people prepared." Their expectations were met and exceeded beyond belief. Hence the name that God gives - John - "God is gracious."

God has a plan for you today. You may have gotten out of bed early in the morning with ideas in your head of how the day was to go but He has plans that are far better. This doesn't mean that the day will end with all of your heart's desires being fulfilled. Rather, it means that He loves you and wants you to trust Him for He has plans for your good. Your only duty today is a simple one, say "yes" to God. In good and in bad, say "yes" to God!  There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. "Do not be afraid for your prayer is heard!"


* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...


Pray with or for your family using - Rosary Meditations for the Family.  20 Meditations on Family life through the lens of the Mysteries of the Rosary.  Also includes the Joyful Mysteries of Marriage and meditations for children.  
Available in Paperback and on Amazon Kindle.


Monday, December 18, 2017

An Eternal Family Tree

Matthew 1:18-25

I often like to contemplate the chain of events that brought me to existence. I wonder what sort of things had to happen for my father and mother to meet. Then I dive deeper in grandparents, great-grandparents and on and on. Could one missed appointment have meant my not being born? Could a premature death changed our family's lineage forever?

I also like to think about the people in my lineage. Were they honorable? Thieves? Nobles? Murderers? Servants? Were there adulterers? Kings? Lords? Peasants? In this way, my family history fascinates me.

Today we are introduced to Jesus, Mary and Joseph's family history. Both Joseph and Mary are from the house or line of King David and so we call Jesus "Son of David." It is interesting that, like many of our families, their family was not perfect. Their lineage from Abraham to Joseph is made up of some of the greatest figures in history and some of the lowest. Kings and murderers, heroes and harlots fill their family tree.

Saint Paul reminds us often that we are part of God's family. We are sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of the Christ. Yet, we understand that while here on earth, on this pilgrimage, there will always be problems in our family. Just as in our earthly families we cannot choose our parents or siblings we cannot choose them with our spiritual and eternal family. Our choice is to love all of our relations and pray for them equally no matter how difficult that may be. Saint Paul also tells us that "all things work for good for those who love God." God can turn even the sinful actions of our brothers and sisters into good. We need only look to Jesus' own lineage to understand this.

Lord Jesus, thank You for my earthly and heavenly family. Thank You for the gift of Your Mother who constantly intercedes on my behalf. Give me the courage to pray for my family members that they might come closer to You. Remind me to pray for my ancestors that they might join You in eternal happiness.


* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...


Pray with or for your family using - Rosary Meditations for the Family.  20 Meditations on Family life through the lens of the Mysteries of the Rosary.  Also includes the Joyful Mysteries of Marriage and meditations for children.  
Available in Paperback and on Amazon Kindle.


Friday, December 15, 2017

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God Challenges