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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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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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 - 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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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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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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The Rose Window - a guide to real living

The Rose Window - a guide to real living

Fifteen years ago, when my family and I visited Rome, the one thing that struck me was the incredible attention to creative beauty that was almost everywhere - the fountains, statues, and architecture, and especially the beauty of the churches built to honor and worship our creator.  You could find in most countries, and even small towns, a desire to build a space of awe and beauty where people could come together and to let their souls soar for a few moments, no matter what their struggles in life.  In Northern France, there are incredible churches, such as Notre Dame and Chartres, where the gothic style masterpieces of architecture can take your breath away as you try to take in all the magnificence and the attention to detail.  That detail, and those symbols, often teach us about our faith and guides us to what is important in life.  One of the best examples this is the incredibly intricate and profoundly beautiful rose window, with its circular and colorful design, all revolving around the center.

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Thanksgiving - "giving thanks to whom and for what?"

Thanksgiving - "giving thanks to whom and for what?"

If you are lucky, you have family and close friends to share a Thanksgiving meal with this week.  For many, it is an abundance of food, football and catching up with family we do not see enough.  For others it could be an emotional day of old wounds, heated disagreements or just plain loneliness.  Wherever you are on Thursday, I pray it is a day of “giving thanks” for you.  Thanksgiving became an official American holiday in 1864 during the Civil War, per proclamation of the President, “Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”  Lincoln’s intent was to bring us together and to remember that we share the same creator that provides everything we have.

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Subsidiarity (Do John Halpin and John Podesta even know what it means?)

Subsidiarity (Do John Halpin and John Podesta even know what it means?)

You can learn some interesting things about how people really think when Wikileaks dumps their emails on the public.  I am not a proponent of this type of invasion of personal privacy, but since the media has abdicated its critical journalistic responsibilities to keep the public informed and protected, I can make an exception here when the individuals are actively working to undermine religious beliefs.  If you have not had a chance to read the emails, they were centered around mocking the “severely backward,” “ignorant,” and “medieval” thinking of conservative Catholics by the president of the Center for American Progress.  One note John Halpin wrote to Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they're talking about.”  My question is if they even understand what the term means?  Since they brought it up, it is an important concept in Catholic social teaching that is worth thinking about. 

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Spiritual but not Religious

Spiritual but not Religious

USA Today (Religion may be a miracle drug byTyler J. VanderWeele and John Siniff ,October 28, 2016) highlighted an extensive Harvard University study on the connection between health and religion.  There have been other studies as well that have shown a positive and significant correlation between physical and psychological health and attending religious services on a weekly basis.  This particular article asks what would happen if a single elixir were developed that would reduce mortality rates by 20-30%, improve optimism and reduce rates of loneliness, depression and suicide, improve marriage and relationships, improve self-control, and boost overall mental health?  Would we clamor for that elixir? The answer the studies have found is that elixir is regular attendance at religious services.  Few people may go for health reasons, but the solid results may tell us something about where our time and focus in life may be well spent and for a good reason – as faith provides each of us with a sense of meaning and purpose to life.

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Does God exist?

Does God exist?

How would you answer the most important question in life? Do I believe that God exists?

  1. I believe in a personal God  
  2. I believe in a God but not a personal God
  3. I don’t know if God exists or not
  4. I don’t care if God exists or not
  5. I don’t believe in God

How would the answer to that question impact your life, what you think is important, and how you see yourself and others?  It may be more profound than you think and worth spending serious time on, no matter which answer fits you today. 

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An Offer You Can Refuse

An Offer You Can Refuse

The Godfather could be my favorite movie of all time.  Everyone is probably familiar with the famous line from Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) when explains to his Godson, Johnny Fontaine, how he is going to get a powerful studio head, Woltz, to give Johnny the part in a movie that he does not want to give him.  “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”   Corleone made the choice for Woltz an unpleasant one but an easy one - “do what I say or you die.”  With God, we also get an offer, but the difference is that it is an offer we can refuse because he loves us enough to give us the gift and responsibility of “free will.”

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