Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scripture On Sundays - Testing Your Faith

The word Lent is from the Anglo-Saxon "lencten" (spring). For the Catholic Church, Lent is a renewal period, starting on Ash Wednesday.  It is a forty-day period in which we enter into a time of penance, preparation, and spiritual renewal.

Today's first reading from Deuteronomy commends Israel for its faith in the God who saves.  No matter what the tribulation, Israel's faith enables it to persevere. 

4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.
5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.
6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor.
7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.
8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders.
9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;
10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me." Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before Him.
Deuteronomy 26:4-10

This faith testing theme also appears in the second reading from St. Paul to the Romans.  Here, Paul boldly asserts that faith in Christ will see the believer through any trial.

Brothers and sisters:
8 What does Scripture say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him,
13 for, "Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:8-13

The  gospel passage from Luke makes it clear that even Jesus was tested.  It describes a test, a struggle between good and evil, that dramatically demonstrates Jesus' faith in the power of God's life in Him.  This power enables Him to overcome the devil's temptation.  This power is with all of us who celebrate the test of Lent.

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert,
2 where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry.
3 The devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."
4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.' "
5 The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
6 And he said to Him, "I will give You all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
7 So if You worship me, it will all be Yours."
8 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.' "
9 The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If You are the Son of God," he said, "throw Yourself down from here.
10 For it is written: " 'He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
12 Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time.
Luke 4:1-13

A temptation that often presents itself is one which tries to convince us that fasting, penance, and self-denial are merely unimportant and antiquated practices of the past. We think we are no longer in need of these things, for we are "enlightened". We begin to tell ourselves we are loved "just as we are", and that further repentance, conversion and spiritual growth are unnecessary. These types of ideas, of course, come from the same tempter which attacked Christ in the desert.

Our Lenten observance is a part of our response to a call to holiness. The penitential practices of this Holy season include fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

I have to confess most of this commentary (other than the scripture) was taken from the Sunday bulletin of the Catholic Church of the Ascension in Fort Myers Beach, FL and from an article written by F.K. Bartels from   

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sex, love and laws

Do you remember when you first learned about sex? Growing up in the 1950's, we were not exposed to all of the sexual innuendoes that are in the media nowadays, such as the blatant references in prime time TV shows, movies and music. Believe it or not, the first time I heard the "F" word was when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. I had overheard a boy in my class use it when he dropped his pencil. When I came home from school that day, I innocently asked my Mom what "f__k" meant. She was shocked I'm sure at first, and then she decided to sit me down and give me the whole birds and bees story. Then it was my turn to be shocked! I never thought I would have gotten such a huge explanation after such a short question. I do remember that she made sure she referred to sex as "the marriage act", so that it would leave the impression that it was to be done only when you are married and wanting to start a family. That's how God intended it to be.

Then my adolescence began in the 60's. It was a culturally changing time. Young men burned their draft cards and women burned their bras. Peace, free love and women's lib ruled the day. We were part of the Woodstock generation who had lyrics to songs, like from Crosby, Stills and Nash, who told us "if you can't be with the one you the one your with". Medical science had advanced enough to give us "The Pill" and condoms were available too. All this gave us the freedom and "protection" to participate in all this free love. The morals and values our parents taught us were going down the drain. If women still ended up getting pregnant, despite the fact that we had all this contraception available to us, some would choose to seek out back alley abortions. Roe v Wade became the law of the land in 1973, in order to give women a "proper, safe and legal" way to obtain an abortion.

I believe all of us can agree that the topic of abortion is a touchy subject because many people have very strong feelings about it. There are the hard core pro lifers, and at the opposite end, the hard core pro choice people. But I do believe there are a lot of people in the middle who are still on the fence and aren't sure what to think. Some may not think or care about this topic at all and would not consider this issue a priority, compared to all of the other serious problems we currently are facing in this nation. But whatever value a society places on the sanctity of life, does play a role in legislation, such as the current healthcare reform bill that the President, and some in Congress, are still trying to pass. The bill that was passed in the House is much "friendlier" (?) to the unborn; the one passed in the Senate is not. There are no protective amendments in that one. Many have concerns that taxpayer money will be used to finance a woman's right to choose an abortion, to terminate a pregnancy.

I believe it's all a matter of perception. The way the growing life within the womb is viewed is the difference. When does life begin? Some believe it is just a lump of cells or a mass of tissue and don't give it a human face. I also believe many women are thinking more about their own current life situation and whether or not it's a good time to have a child. The pro choice people always like to give the reasons that they're concerned about women's health, or what if the pregnancy resulted from a rape? I would venture to say that those two reasons are in the vast minority, and the most prevalent reason for a woman wanting an abortion is because it's bad timing, inconvenient, or frankly....just unwanted.

The pro life people know that science tells us within 3 weeks of being conceived, there is a new, little heart beating in the womb. That means the mother hasn't even missed her first period yet and probably does not even realize she is pregnant and has a new and growing life within her. When she does eventually go in to see a doctor, the heartbeat can usually be detected and heard. So if the mother makes the choice to have an abortion, the consequnces of that decision is that it will ultimately stop a beating heart. There should be no dispute on that fact. Some may not want to admit it's a life, or a baby yet, but it does undeniably have a heartbeat. In this day and age, our society does not give any rights to, nor does this potential new life have any choice in it's fate. It's ability to have the opportunity to live out it's's own destiny, is in the hands of it's own mother.  It's her choice as to whether it gets that chance or not, as the law states now.

So the focus on abortion for pro choice people is mainly on the mother. The pro life people's focus is not only on the mother, but also on the innocent and growing new life within her. There is help out there, if you're an unwed mother. There is also the choice to give up the baby for adoption. Why end an innocent life, when there are other options out there?

Millions of innocent lives would not have been created, and then abruptly terminated, if women would have been more sexually responsible in the first place. My husband told our teenaged sons, "If you want to 'play', you better be willing to 'pay'.  Meaning, if you are man enough to father a child, you better be there to be a father to that child.  I believe he was right, my mother was right, and God's teachings are right too.  Free love is irresponsible, degrading, and can cause great pain and grief down the road for you.  Why would you want to be hurting yourself and your loved ones?  Why would you sacrifice all that, just for those few brief moments of pleasure???  And we all know it can have negative effects on the men too.  Just ask Tiger Woods.  He's paying dearly for all the fun he had, and at least two innocent lives were lost when one of the many women  who took part in  those sexual encounters, admitted to having had an abortion and a miscarriage.  The tangled web we weave!  Human lives should not be used and then discarded, and these women need to wise up.    

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Scripture On Sundays - Faith, Hope & Charity

Who should you trust?

5 This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6 He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He dwells in the barren desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.
7 "Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is in Him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:5-8

1 Blessed are the ones who do not follow the counsel of the wicked,  nor walk in the way of sinners, nor sit in the company of the insolent and those who mock.
2 Instead, their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law they meditate day and night.
Psalm 1:1

For the sake of argument, Paul confronts the people's belief in a risen Christ and the hope of an afterlife.

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 
16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all people.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20
This next gospel has been said to be one of Jesus' best sermons.  The poor and downtrodden will one day rejoice and the high and mighty will face dire consequences for their greed.  There will be justice for all....because it is said, for those who have much, much is expected.  However, I believe it should not be forced upon them by others (such as the government), because that can cause resentment.  Jesus taught that charity should come from your own heartfelt desire to be generous, kind and compassionate.  He knows the difference, that is if we're doing it grudgingly or doing it of our own free will.  He knows what's in our hearts.
17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured,
19 and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all.
20 Looking at His disciples, He said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of Me.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Luke 6:17-26

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday's Thought For The Day

We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience....

We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Scripture On Sundays - Do Not Be Afraid

Have you noticed that people of faith seem to handle adversity better than others?  It's all in our mindset.  We have a perspective that helps us through the rough times.  I'd first like to share the lyrics of a song we sang in church today.  The name of the song is "Here I Am, Lord".  It is the Lord speaking in the verses and the people in the refrain.

I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, My Hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My Light to them?  Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?  I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if You lead me.  I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne My people's pain.
I have wept for love of them.  They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My Word to them.  Whom shall I send?


I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.  My Hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide, 'til their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My Life to them, Whom shall I send?


The first reading from the prophet Isaiah recalls the vision of his calling.  At the end, you will see where divine things are not fully comprehended.  I'd also like to say that in these times of political correctness, we Christians have a tendency to be rather reluctant, or timid to state our beliefs, for fear we will be perceived as being intolerant of others.  However, we are taught to love everyone, even our enemies.  What we may disapprove of, is not the person themself, but of their behavior, because it is counter to God's teachings (hate the sin, but love the sinner).  We know what God has taught us about how we should respect life, and also to use our sexuality in the way He intended it to be used.  So, in the way that Isaiah was called by God to spread His word, so like him, all Christians must not be afraid to speak out, because in our hearts, we know God's teachings are right, because it's all about love.

Isaiah was not afraid   

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.
2 Above Him were the seraphim (angels), each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
3 And they were calling to one another:  "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory."
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
9 He said, "Go and tell this people: " 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'
Isaiah 6:1-8

St. Paul was not afraid

Then in the second reading St. Paul reveals what he's seen and heard and why spreading the gospel is his calling, even though he originally persecuted the Church before his conversion.

1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the Word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep (died).
7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8 and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Calling of the First Disciples, who were not afraid to become "fishers of men" 

1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him and listening to the word of God,
2 He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.
3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon (Peter), "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets."
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"  (He must have felt undeserving)
9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,
10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will become fishers of men."
11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
Luke 5:1-11

And so we must be prepared, and unafraid, to share with the world the love and kindness, and the greatness and righteousness of our Lord.  The world is sorely in need of it, whether they realize it or not.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Scripture On Sundays - Stand Up For Faith, Hope and Love

It's Not Easy Being A Prophet
Jeremiah's Calling Is To Warn The People

4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
9 Then the LORD reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put My words in your mouth.
16 I will pronounce My judgments on My people because of their wickedness in forsaking Me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.
17 Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them"
Jeremiah 1:4-5,9,16-17a

Every Christian's Calling

14 But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of Your righteousness, of Your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.
16 I will come and proclaim Your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone.
17 Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You who have done great things. Who, O God, is like You?
20 Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up.
Psalm 71:14-20

St. Paul Tells Us Love Will Overcome Everything

1 If I speak in the tongues (languages) of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

I got a little ahead of myself last week and ended up posting what was both last week's and this week's gospel readings.  If you go back and read it (from Luke chap. 4), you'll noticed at the end of the passage, the people were ready to throw Jesus off a cliff!  They originally liked what He was saying, but then when He spoke of some people who were cleansed, cured and saved, that they must have thought were underserving, they turned on Him and were ready to "throw Him under the bus" in today's terminology.  Somehow, the good news message of Jesus and the love that we should show to everyone, is not always well received.  He knew there would be doubters of His Word, but who could argue with someone who promotes being a loving person?  Love is what encompasses His entire message.