When a Friend Dies

13 Apr

Reaching Up

In times of sorrow or confusion, our souls seek the wisdom, strength

and comfort of our Lord and God.

It was expected. Jim had been ill for a long time. He had suffered a lot. Ginny, his wife, was with him 24-7 for many months. His friends came to visit, to pray, to sit in silent communion.

Still, when he breathed his last, there was a crushing sorrow, a great sense of loss. Yes, we believe in everlasting life—but death is unwelcome. We cringe from death. It’s not supposed to be. And, happily, we know it is not the end.

Jim was a tremendous Christian, a man of the Word, a man whose faith led him to many years of ministry to the sick and dying at Hospice.  He was involved in two men’s Bible studies—one Catholic and one interfaith. He was gentle and spoke with care and compassion. He was interested in what other people were feeling and experiencing.

His faith came as a great gift.

One evening at our parish church, Jim was asked to share the story of how he came to know the Lord so intimately. You could have heard a pin drop. You see, by his own admission, he had not been so lily-white in earlier years.

But then, he met Ginny, the woman who was to become his wife. Her faith inspired him. He embraced his Catholic faith. They were so deeply in love with one another and with the Lord.

What gives us hope in moments like these? Love can never die. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 8), and, “God is love and he who remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16).

Jim’s love remains with us and our love with him.

Isn’t that what we mean by the “communion of saints?”  It is all about God’s love. It’s about God who first loved us so that we could know love and love in return.

It’s all about love.

Love can never die.

Politics, Education and …

9 Apr

It's time for Catholics to come in for a check-up.

 

Do you sometimes feel we’re going nowhere fast? You are not alone.

 

Many years ago in Cajun land, a candidate for Police Juror (County Commissioner) knocked on our door soliciting our vote.

Let’s call him Bob.

“Bob,” I asked, “what’s your platform?”

He said, “My platform is to win.”

Honest enough answer, but I persisted, “Well, if you are elected, what will you do for the parish (county)?”

He said with great excitement, “I’m going to black top this road in front of your house.”

I nearly laughed, because, you see, work was already in progress to black top that road.

As I look at national elections, sadly I see the same sort of foolishness, but on a much grander scale. People seem to vote for candidates that will feather their nests in one way or another. There seems to be a pitiful lack of concern for who we are as Americans, our history, the strength of the U.S. Constitution and the need to have a strong nation for our sake and the sake of all peoples around the world.

Ignorance is not bliss. It never was and never will be. It is inexcusable that any high school graduate cannot tell you who was the first president of these United States or have any information or interest in the Civil War which tore our nation apart, or in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

But the real problem is in the American family. Faith is the foundation for a strong family and then for a strong nation. We need to rediscover faith in God. Too many people think the universe revolves around them. Henri Nouwen, a popular 20th century writer, hit the nail on the head: People can say with conviction, “I exist.” He said that the moment you discover the truth that “God exists,” you can no longer see yourself as the center of all life. You discover your essence and grandeur in relating to this God who calls you into existence.

I am convinced that this is the fundamental reality that can save family life, education, government and politics.

That, dear reader, is the basis for any hope we may have for ourselves, our nation and our world.

 

The Tiniest is Greater

8 Apr

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Sometimes, God gives us an incomplete idea of what he wants of us–or so we think. Even a hint of what he has in store for us is more powerful than all  doubt and confusion.

 The fortieth chapter of Isaiah has long been a favorite. It launches the faithful one into a deeply rooted evangelistic spirit. It gives marching orders:

Comfort, give comfort to my people.… In the desert prepare the way of the Lord…Go up on a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings, cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news. Fear not to cry out, here is your God! (See verses 1a, 9.)

What a wonderful commission from our Lord.

But, also in Isaiah 40 (6b-7a), we find the powerful admonition which we must believe and proclaim:

“All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.”

The mere whisper of God’s breath, just a tiny hint of divine glory and power, is infinitely greater than the folly of self worship.

Go Ghezzi!

6 Apr

Bert Ghezzi is no stranger to readers of Catholic literature. His books, more than 20 of them, date from his younger days. None has ever disappointed.

His latest, “The Heart of Catholicism,” invites the reader to look deeply into the heart of Christ to discover the heart of the Catholic faith (Ave Maria Press, ppr. 175 pgs, $14.95).

Endorsed by several people including bishops and laity, the book has five very readable sections–”Being Catholic,” “Receiving Daily Graces,” “Opening to God,” “Making Daily Changes,” and “Reaching Beyond Ourselves.”

He writes with authority because he relies on the authority of God as revealed in Scripture and in the Church; he also writes from a vast experience of learning and teaching.

Ghezzi acknowledges the areas of agreement we have with other Christians. But, he writes, “we diverge in many other ways. Among the differences that separate us from other Christians, perhaps the most significant is the teaching about the Church itself. We believe that the Catholic Church is the direct descendant of that visible society that Jesus founded and handed over to Peter and the apostles to care for, propagate and govern.

In the chapter, “Worshipping at Mass,” Bert Ghezzi offers “seven ways to participate actively in the Mass” (pp. 46-49). This section will be very helpful to many readers who wonder about the benefits of Sunday worship.

In Chapter 15, “Making Friends for Christ and the Church,” we find short stories of how some Catholics utilize their natural talents and faith in reaching others through kindness and compassion.

Each chapter ends with very practical and helpful information: “Comprehension and Discussion Questions,” Choose an Action,” and “For Further Study” which includes digital resources.

This is a must read for people beginning their quest for an intimate relationship with Christ and the Church. It is a must read for anyone who has grown too comfortable in what I often refer to as “faith-as-usual.”

“The Heart of Catholicism” will be helpful for other Christians who want to know and understand what makes Catholics tick.

Finally, this book should be made available to all parishioners who want to promote faith in Christ in the Catholic Church.

 

A Bit Significant?

3 Apr

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And on the night before he died, he took bread …

(Mt 26:26-30; Mk 14:22-26; Lk 22:14-20)

Truth Cannot Contradict Itself

Do the bread and wine, when consecrated at Mass, truly become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ?

We say “Yes, Amen!” Others deny this as ridiculous—even some who claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.

So, let’s takes a look at the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John.

Actually, we’ll focus on these verses: Jn 6:47-60, 66-69.

Six times Jesus proclaims and insists that unless we eat his body and drink his blood we cannot have life in us. Six times! Many leave him because “This is a hard saying” and they could not believe their ears.

Jesus asks them and us

Jesus turns to his disciples and challenges them: “Are you, too, going to leave me.”

And is it not at least significant that Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life?”

It is more than significant. It is divine truth, revealed to us by the Son of God made Man. It is his gift of himself for the faithful of all ages.

What we receive in the Eucharist is not the tortured and dead body of Christ on the cross. We receive him in his glorified body, that body which could walk through doors, suddenly appear on a lake shore, vanish before the eyes of the two men from Emmaus—the body that, in glory, ascended into heaven.

This question of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist culls the flock of the Lord, separates those who believe his words from those who do not.

Check the Scripture for yourself.

And another “significant” fact

In Matthew, Jesus asks the disciples, “And who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They say that the people think he is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or some other prophet.

Then he asks them, “But who do you say that I am?”

It was Simon (Peter) who responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Than Jesus announces that it was the Father himself who revealed this to Peter and he singles out this man for leadership:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Is this not also more than a mere significance? It is divine truth, revealed for the good of the Church, for the unity of the Church in worship, doctrine and ministry.

Again, read the Scripture for yourself. And you may want to check it again on Holy Thursday.

 

 

 

 

Does God Smile?

31 Mar

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Just thinking, loving and seeking God in everyday life.

She’s only fourteen months old. Just a toddler, she has not yet graced us with a single word—but she babbles, points and laughs. Her smile just melts the heart.

And when she sees us (especially me?), she runs toward us with arms out. She knows she will be picked up, hugged, kissed and loved ever so deeply.

When I see her and pick her up, I know my face is split asunder with a joy-filled smile. My heart fills with gladness. I am in that moment fully content, fully alive.

I can’t help but wonder.

Does God smile when I at last run toward him?

 

Help my unbelief

29 Mar

 

Heavenly Sun Beams

 

You are the Lord, the one and only God, three Persons, one Being, undivided unity.

You are my God, my one and only God.

I believe you. 

I believe in you.

Lord, help me truly to believe what I say I believe and to live faithfully what I believe.

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