Is Christ a way or the way?

Is Christ a way or the way?

On Thursday, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, the last time apostles would see Jesus before he was taken into heaven.  After all those years of teaching, example, miracles and finally his greatest act of love and mercy on the cross, Jesus had returned to the apostles he befriended and loved for their final instructions.  They were never going to see their best friend again in this life but what did Jesus leave them, what did he leave all of us with?  He told them not to let their hearts be troubled and that he was preparing a place in heaven for them. The told them that he and the Father were one and whatever they asked for in his name, he would do it.  He asked then to keep his commandments, and he let them know that he would not leave them orphans but send a helper, an Advocate to be with them forever – the Holy Spirit.  He told them not to be afraid and that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who comes from the Father, would teach them everything and remind them of everything he said, giving them the power and authority to teach, perform miracles, forgive sins, and be his witnesses.   He asked them to love each other as he loved them, laying down their very lives for each other.  He instructed them to spread the Good News, the gospel, to the “ends of the earth,” and promised to return to bring them home to the Father.  

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Procruste's Magical Bed

Procruste's Magical Bed

From time to time I take time to comment on articles in on-line newspapers such as the Washington Post.  Abortion is one of the topics where I usually end up in a back and forth discussion with someone that goes by pseudonym, “GentlySmilingJaws.”  She is a passionate supporter of the right to abortion and her main arguments come to down these convictions:

  1. A woman cannot be fully autonomous or free if she does not have complete control over her own body.  Forced pregnancy is enslavement.

  2. Sex is intended for either pleasure, intimate bonding of two committed couples OR (not AND) creating life.  There is no responsibility for the naturally designed consequences of sex.  You choose to have sex without consequences and then whether or not to remain pregnant afterward.

  3. The baby does not become living or human until she or he exits the birth canal, so there is no other living human being involved in an abortion decision and abortion does not end the life of a real living human being but only a potential human being.

  4. Even if there were another living human being involved, no one has the right to force themselves on a woman to use her body, and the woman's right to control her own body is superior to the rights or life of someone using her body – similar to forced organ donation.  The idea that there is some responsibility for making the original decision to create a life that would be dependent is unreasonable.

  1. A woman cannot be fully autonomous or free if she does not have complete control over her own body.  Forced pregnancy is enslavement.

  2. Sex is not intended for both intimate bonding of two committed couples AND creating life.  Sex is for pleasure and there is no responsibility for the naturally designed consequences of sex.  You choose to have sex without consequences and whether or not to remain pregnant afterward.

  3. The baby does not become living or human until she or he exits the birth canal, so there is no other living human being involved in an abortion.

  4. Even if there were another living human being involved, no one has the right to force themselves on a woman to use her body, and the woman's right to control her own body is superior to the rights or life of someone using her body – similar to forced organ donation.

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Is the Holy Spirt in my life?

Is the Holy Spirt in my life?

I will have to admit that I have struggled to relate to the Holy Spirit in a personal way, to grasp how to think about that last of the “three men I admire most, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.”  We can know Jesus in a real human and tangible way.  He left us his words in scripture.  He thought us how to know and understand the profound love of the Father for each of us.  He gave us his example and even his life.  He built a Church to leave us with guidance and his true presence.  But he sent us something more, someone I am just beginning to connect with more consciously. The Holy Spirit.

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Sex and the Single Girl

Sex and the Single Girl

In 1962, Helen Gurley Brown wrote a best-selling novel titled, Sex and the Single Girl. She was a vocal advocate of women’s sexual freedom and her fashion-focused magazine, Cosmopolitan,  claimed that women could have it all – “love, sex, and money.”  She coined the phrase, “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere” as she focused on the self-made, ambitious, glamorous, unashamed, and sexual model for the successful and full-filled woman.  It is reasonable to say that women had as much right and freedom to determine their own path in life as their male counterparts and not to treated as anything less, but it is interesting to see if this path Helen Gurley Brown has help to pave has been a healthy one for today’s young woman.  Her coined phrase has certainly seemed to pit God’s plan against her own vision.

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March for Science - let's take a poll

March for Science - let's take a poll

Science is one of the greatest endeavors women and men have ever engaged in.   Objective efforts to discover the incredible complexity and beauty of the universe have been nothing less than breathtaking in the advancements from space to the smallest building blocks of life.  Science is good but science overly mixed with politics and misleading information can be very bad.  We need to trust the objective integrity of science vs forcing people to parse the information given to yield an ideological result.  I think it has been a step back for science with scientists and non-scientists alike simply ask questions or want to verify the results.  When scientists are mocked, censured and punished for introducing information or even debate into what should be a robust discussion on important issues, it looks more like winning at all costs vs science- even when you feel really strong about the answer you believe to be true.

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Happy Easter - now what?

Happy Easter - now what?

We can only image how the apostles and followers of Jesus felt after he had been so brutally executed and now go forever.   This man was like no other.  He saw into their very souls with unconditional love and acceptance.  He spoke of God’s love and our lives in ways that profoundly impacted them.   He had moved them in a way that they literally dropped everything to follow him, his words, his friendship, and his example.  On the night before he was crucified in such a brutal fashion, he knelt as a servant to wash each of their feet and shared his body and blood with them so that they could become one with him and live forever in God’s love.  Within a matter of hours, Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial lamb as he poured himself out in total self-gift.  Out of pure love and mercy, Jesus took the place of not only Barabbas but of each apostle and each one of us on the cross for our sins so that we might share eternal life with him in heaven. 

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Lenten reflection - loved for our true self

Lenten reflection - loved for our true self

Hopefully, we take advantage of Lent to slow down and think about our life.  Has it become a busy string of events, entertainment, and rushed busyness, and less than God intended?  If we strip away all the noise and time spent on meaningless things, what part of us is focused on the things that matter in life?  Don’t get me wrong, there is a rhythm to life that includes the very simple and mundane things we do that become special moments when the focus is on doing them together with loved ones, family, and friends – or those that need our loving support.  However, when the focus is on ourselves, that empty busyness can be a sign of something deeper that keeps us from living life abundantly in deeply meaningful relationships.  The subconscious focus can often be on avoiding and protecting ourselves from dealing with difficult issues or risking rejection and pain.  Many times wee find it is not the things that happen to us in life that causes most of our difficulties and anxieties but our avoidance of dealing with them.

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Lenten reflection - forgiveness and mercy

Lenten reflection - forgiveness and mercy

During Lent, you will find Catholic Churches open on Wednesday evenings for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The program is called the “Light is on.”  Easter is all about God’s unending love and mercy poured out on the Cross of each one of us. God opens with open arms as Christ tells us in the profound parable of the Prodigal Son.  It is humbling to reveal our sins and the ugliest parts of ourselves.  The woman at the well found in Christ a moment where someone see everything about her and still loved her. It is love and the ultimate sense of freedom to know we are still loved unconditionally when we turn back to God.  I have a feeling that we will experience that profound sense of perfect freedom in heaven when we are completely seen as we are by everyone – and it is okay.  No more hiding. Not more presenting our protective false sense with the nagging fear of our true and imperfect self-being rejected.  We are loved as we are and we can begin to reveal the beauty of who God made.  Below is an excerpt from a book I am working on.  Hopefully, it brings some inspiration to move our true selves closer to God this Lent.

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Lenten reflection - what's in a gaze?

Lenten reflection - what's in a gaze?

Have you ever met or talked with someone and the way they look at you is profoundly different?  I remember my very first day with my wife, Joanne.  We went to dinner and the movies and had really nice time with conversation was easy.  Afterward, I drove her home, and we stood outside of her apartment in a two-family house on a quiet street in Watertown, Massachusetts.  It was one of those beautiful late summer evenings but what I remember most was that look in Joanne’s eyes when we kissed under a moonlit sky.  It was a gaze that stopped my world and told me that she was nowhere but in that moment with me.  I was thinking that it was far too early to be a look of love but it was a gaze that looked deeper than just into my eyes only and gave me a feeling I will never forget, as it sits front and center in my memory file and my heart.  When I recall that moment with Joanne, I call it “the look”, but it was much more than that to me.

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Lenten reflection - the image is the clue

Lenten reflection - the image is the clue

Lent provides a great opportunity to spend more time being with God, and in turn recognizing who we are and what God asks of us.  In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees are trying to entrap Jesus again, this time with a question on taxes. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” Jesus is well aware of the tax revolt going on at the time and if he answered "yes," he would lose favor with the Jews due to the burdensome taxes, and if he responded "no," he may be charged with sedition by the Romans. Jesus was too smart for that and much too wise to pass up an opportunity to teach something profound.  Instead of taking sides and responding to the trap, Jesus asks for a coin, and the readiness to provide one proved the Pharisees use and acceptance of Roman administration.  He asked whose image was on the coin and when they respond, “The emperor’s,” he tells them to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s.”  So Jesus has shrewdly raised the stakes of the discussion and turned the tables on the Pharisee's plans to trap him. How so?

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Lenten reflection -How envy hurts us

Lenten reflection -How envy hurts us

Each Lent gives us a great opportunity to stop our busy lives to grow spiritually in some way.  Besides giving something up and doing good works, it is a great time to reflect on the Word and where we can recognize things in ourselves that separate us from God’s plan.  Most of us probably don’t think we are guilty of the seven deadly sins (Pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust) but, when we look deeper, there is often a hint of all of them in each of us, more than we like to admit.  The seven deadly sins are deadly, not in themselves but in what they can lead us to.  Envy is an example of one we may have experienced at times in our lives that can greatly impact us and those around us.  There is nothing wrong with desiring good things in life or even what other people enjoy, but envy is a “sadness or discontent at the excellence, good fortune, talent, blessings, or success of another person. It implies that one considers oneself somehow deprived by what one envies in another.”  It isn’t an ordered desire for the good but being fixated on drawing comparisons between ourselves and others, or the destructive sense of rivalry that drives the sin of envy – someone is better off than us and it makes us angry. 

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Is marriage really meant to be forever?

Is marriage really meant to be forever?

What things in life are a bigger deal than marriage?  Who will we spend our life with?  Who will we share our most intimate moments with?  We take that excitement of falling in love and courting into our journey of life with our best friend and partner “through good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of our lives.”  Few would argue with that vow and commitment on the day of their wedding, but many feel differently after the feelings of discontentment, boredom, or even animosity begin to seep in to the relationship.  We “fall” out of love, we split up,  we deserve to be happy, we look for another to marry and start a new life with together.  As we made that first commitment or vow to each other for life, the question is if that vow was intended to be real or just a romantic notion?  Was marriage intended to be forever, even if the feelings of love wear off or things become challenging?

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Opposing views - good discussion

Opposing views - good discussion

I recently watched a very interesting Dave Rubin interview.  In the current political environment, it was more than refreshing to watch two individuals with radically different points for view have a respectful, honest and meaningful conversation on topics that could have been personally sensitive and potentially contentious.  Rubin, comedian, liberal, pro-choice, gay-married, and an atheist “with a strong allergy to organized religion” is the host of the Rubin Report.  I will have to commend Rubin for his range of guests, including a Catholic bishop (Robert Barron) who has spent the last fifteen years evangelizing the faith through social media.  His Youtube videos, articles and weekly homilies on his website, www.wordonfire.org are more than worth a weekly visit.

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What is love?

What is love?

What is love?  A good question for St. Valentine’s Day, but I am not sure the Roxbury Guys from Saturday Night Live would really be the right ones to ask.  The dictionary defines love as “an intense feeling or deep affection” or to “feel deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.”  Wikipedia says, “Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection to pleasure.  It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment.”  While those definitions point to the intense high we can feel when beginning a romantic relationship, something seems missing when you think about the depth of what love is really all about.  On a day where men and woman are either searching for someone to love, trying to hold on to that feeling of love they once had, or wondering if they will never have that love that will last, it may not be bad idea to understand how we think of love.

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Don't be stuck in Groundhog Day

Don't be stuck in Groundhog Day

This past Thursday night, my wife had a call from her doctor about some blood tests she had done earlier that day.  The numbers were extremely high and concerning enough that the doctor asked her how quickly she could get to an emergency room for a CT Scan.  The scan did not find any of the suspected issues but uncovered some concerning fluid build-up around the heart and lungs that led to an ambulance ride into one of the Boston Hospitals.  As we sat and waited in the small emergency room, the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Angie McDowell was playing on the screen.  I had forgotten that today was groundhog day.  While the movie is a comedy, it actually has some deep messages about life.  If you have not seen it, it is worth checking out. 

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Can we talk (with dignity and respect?)

Can we talk (with dignity and respect?)

Has anyone else noticed how difficult it has become for people with different opinions to have an open, honest, and respectful debate these days?  Would you feel comfortable to honestly share your convictions, thoughts, or even questions with others without being concerned about the reaction or judgement you might receive?  Why have people become so afraid to simply listen to understand another point of view, even if they may not agree with that person's position? Do we assume that we are the only ones who could possible be intelligent, thoughtful, caring and honest enough to warrant listening to with respect and dignity?

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Jon Imber's Inspiring Example

Jon Imber's Inspiring Example

Thirty years ago, my wife and her family introduced me to the small fishing village of Stonington, Me.  It is rugged, strikingly beautiful, and home to many hardworking people making their living and raising their families.  The island is also home to many artists, not only because of it’s beauty, and quality of light, but also because of the character of the community. Early on, we met one painter, Jill Hoy, whom we have admired for her brilliant use of color and unique style to her oil paintings.  Each year, as we walk up and down the steep hills of the town after church and/or breakfast at the Harbor View Cafe, we would always seem to end up at Jill’s gallery to admire her impressive work that has captured so much of this island.

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If it were true, would you want to know?

If it were true, would you want to know?

I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone mentioned that there was no longer the appetite for the truth as there once was.  That struck me as both sad and dangerous territory that we live in.  Atheists now say, no only, that God does not exist, but it doesn’t really matter if he did.  With our advances in science, we have outgrown the need for God.  Both of those assertions certainly make a lot of assumptions about the truth, but most people don’t seem all that interested in validating those assumptions or even having the discussion. 

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Have yourself a merry "Little Christmas"

Have yourself a merry "Little Christmas"

Every year, my extended family makes a point of getting together to celebrate “Little Christmas” or Epiphany.  It is great to have everyone together to celebrate family. These days, I am not sure how many people know that there really are twelve days of Christmas, or that “Little Christmas” or Epiphany actually exists at the end.  Epiphany is the Christian feast day that celebrates the visit of the Magi (the three wise men or kings) who followed the star that led them to where Jesus was, prostrated themselves in homage, and offered their gifts to the new King.  Epiphany is from a Greek word that means manifestation or appearance.  As we socialize, watch football playoffs, and eat our appetizers and peppermint stick ice cream pie, the idea that God would reveal himself to us through his Son taking on flesh and being both divine and human, should move us beyond words each and every year.

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