Archive | October, 2013

Three Friends at Starbucks

21 Oct

Heavenly Sun Beams

Life is such a special gift–and it is made very special by faith, love and friendship.

Jack, Bob and Homer, were sitting at one of those small tables in Starbucks. 

They were from very different backgrounds: Jack, from corporate involvement; Bob, from education and publishing; Homer, from various pursuits. But at this moment, their various past experiences were unimportant. They were friends, fellow believers.

If you were a person of little or no faith, you might have thought these three elderly men a bit weird.

 If you were young and overheard their conversation, you might have become uncomfortable.

 Several years before, Jack had received an organ transplant. Now the transplant was dying—and so was Jack. They were talking quietly and with the ease of deep friendship, alternately smiling, laughing and becoming serious again. They spoke of the gift of life, of everlasting life, and of Jack’s final arrangements.

 Their friendship was rooted in their Lord and Savior—and while death meant termination of physical presence, it could never destroy their love and friendship.

 Love never dies.

 God is love and he who loves abides in God and God in him (See 1 Jn 4:16).

 

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Nuts and Bolts, A Review

10 Oct

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Father David Knight has done it again—and he keeps on doing it again and again.

In this case, I am speaking of his quite timely and highly readable “Nuts and Bolts of Daily Spirituality” with the subtitle, “Practical Steps to Draw Closer to God.”

This book is timely because it responds to the crisis of faith in our Church—a crisis of spiritual distraction and confusion, a crisis in which people have become unaware of how present God is in daily life and of how much God yearns to be a part of their lives.

It is highly readable because Father Knight is down to earth. He knows what it means to be human. He speaks and writes from a poverty of spirit which lays him open to the hearts of his readers.

In a most hospitable way, Dave Knight calls readers to take time-out from the busyness of life, to assess who they are as persons created by and dependent on God, and to experience the gentle love God has for each of us.

He has five “nuts and bolts” that strengthen one’s growth in the love of God:

  • Ask the Lord to live with, in and through you;
  • Get a Bible and pray through it;
  • Never again ask whether something is right or wrong, but ask how it will bear witness to the mission of Jesus Christ;
  • Let Jesus express himself through you, and,
  • Notice everything around you that needs to be changed.

Each “nut and bolt” is clearly explained and is pregnant with the invitation to become one with God.

Here are just three gems from the book:

“The reason we sometimes don’t ‘get anything’ out of prayer is because we don’t understand the level of communication God wants to have with us. Or we are afraid to enter into it (pg 13).”

“In baptism, we not only became Christ, but Christ became us by taking us into his real body. With us—and in us and through us—Jesus is living his own life in partnership with us who are sharing it with him” (pg 25).

He speaks of each Mass as “a turning point, a time of decision that takes us up or down, makes us better or worse, drives us forward into the church’s life or leaves us farther behind. So every Eucharist is, or should be, a moment of crisis” (pg 79).

“Nuts and Bolts of Daily Spirituality” should become a part of adult catechesis in every Catholic parish. It is that timely, insightful and inspiring.

Beyond the Year of Faith

7 Oct

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Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough (1 Cor 5:9b)?

The aroma of baking bread filled the little farm house and scented the entire yard. Mama was baking bread.

I remember how she worked so hard making bread “from scratch.” I was always curious about that little piece of yeast that had to be worked throughout all the dough in her mixing bowl. I remember how she formed the buns, placed them in a tray and covered them with a dish towel “to keep the flies away.” I remember how she insisted that we be quiet, not to disturb the work of the yeast which was making the buns rise.

Perhaps we have been too distracted, even overwhelmed, by the “big picture,” the numbers of Catholics leaving our Church, the anger and division in our government and nation, the growing number of people who see “work” only in terms of money and self-preservation, and those people who don’t think it is necessary to work at all.

Being so distracted and overwhelmed, it is too easy to become frustrated, even hopeless: “Oh, what can I do?”

We look for the quick solution, the magic “potion” that will set all things right. We pray to God, “God do something! Kiss our boo-boos and make them go away.”

God is aware of our anxiety, our need for healing.

Maybe God is answering:

“Be still. I am God. Hear me.

 “I love you. I have given you life. I have sent my own Son into the world for your salvation. I have given you my Church, my sacraments, my Word—and I have called you to tell everyone that I am God, that I am the answer to all their suffering, confusion and pain.

“You are not alone, not just one little piece of leaven. Look to fellow believers—together, your goodness and united voice will begin to heal the world of its lack of faith, its penchant for evil and its fruitless search for peace through violence.”

Can you image what would happen if all of us “little pieces of yeast” got together to influence the world, that great hunk of unleavened dough?

The Year of Faith draws to a close. But the work of faith can never end. For all of us, the Year of Faith is a launching pad into a new era of zeal for the Gospel of Christ and a deepened thirst for the salvation of all people. We should already have embraced the New Evangelization.

We talk a lot about evangelization and urge all Catholics to live and share the Good News—but we spend too little time helping Catholics learn how to grow in faith and how to share their Catholic faith.

Sharing faith is really simple—and there are simple steps that help us become confident in sharing our love of God and Church.

That’s why I wrote the book, “Catholic and Confident, Simple Steps to Share Your Faith.” That’s why I promote the New Evangelization in every way possible.

What Is Hell Like?

4 Oct

Reaching Up

Now, today, right now, is the time to reach out to the God who made you, loves you and calls you.

Do you believe that Hell is real?

How do you picture such a “place?” What is hell really like?

In my childhood, hell was a place where a holy but somewhat merciless God watched you suffer a punishment of eternal fire, a fire that did not consume or kill, a fire that just ate away at you forever.

I was terrified of God.

In recent years, Hell has been de-emphasized and God’s love and mercy have been happily emphasized. However, we perhaps need a balance, a more realistic appreciation of God’s sovereignty and wisdom. Perhaps we need to consider again St. Paul’s admonition, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).

If God is merciful and loving, what is there to fear?

We have Hell to fear – a “place” in which aloneness eternally pierces the soul, in which there is an unrelenting sense of loss and crushing guilt. There we will realize how foolish we were to take God for granted—or to have ignored him and his loving call to good and moral living. There, in Hell, will be a never-ending and never-satisfied hunger and thirst for God, for love, for belonging.

Perhaps this is what is meant by the fires of Gehenna (Mt 5:21-22).

In Hell, you will realize that God did not do this to you. You did it to yourself. In life, you ignored God or maybe “created” him in your own image. Perhaps as did Adam and Eve, you fancied yourself equal to God.

Would it not be silly to aspire to eternal happiness with God when, without genuine repentance, you ignored or denied God in this life?

Disconcerting Contrast

3 Oct

Photo by Ray Hosler

 A perfect setting for prayer–on a cruise ship far out in the Caribbean Sea. Even in the midst of peaceful travel with fellow believers, things can happen that are a bit disconcerting.

We were sailing along at dinner time on the Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. There was a lot of good joy and laughter – eighteen of us on a retreat cruise and most of us long-time friends.

Suddenly, near our tables, there was a big commotion. A man was suffering a seizure. The registered nurse in our group rushed over to help. An alarm sounded. The ship’s medical staff arrived on the scene. Waiters immediately went into action placing a curtain of table cloths around the man and the ship’s medical staff.

All of us in this section of the dining room were subdued into a respectful silence. Some lips moved in private prayer.

Then, in two adjoining areas of the dining room, came the booming voices of several off-key waiters as they moved from table-to-table singing “Happy Birthday” to this or that passenger.

I found this to be a disconcerting contrast. The emergency alarm had been audible throughout the dining area. Did they not hear it? Why sing joyfully while there was a human life hanging in the balance?

Whatever the reason, that man’s sad plight, along with his wife’s tearful presence, deserved more respect.

Also, that man is us. We are one people. What happens to one of us is important to all. That’s the way God created us – to be one with him and with one another.

“You shall be my people and I will be your God” (Jer 30:22).

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).