Thursday, March 26, 2020

Gospel Thoughts Today: Accepting the Truth

His melanoma had been diagnosed in 2004; surgery on his upper back left a gaping hole as if he had been blasted in the back with a cannonball. My father was pretty upset after the surgery . . . mad he allowed my sister and me to convince him to have the melanoma removed. When a new lesion was found and diagnosed as malignant metastatic melanoma on his leg early 2005, he was in complete denial. The results of the PET scan came on my birthday. My father's cancer had metastasized to his brain, lungs, and bones. Having forced my father to have this scan done, he blew off the results. "Doctors are only out to make money," he would say. This was in April 2005. By September, he was living in my home, completely wheelchair-bound. A few weeks before his death in January 2006, he asked me if he would be in his own apartment again. This was an important moment for my dad and me . . . he knew he would get the full, unedited truth from me . . . no sugarcoating. Finally, in the end, he was ready to accept the truth. I told him no, he would be spending the rest of his days with us here. I promised him we would be by his side the entire time. He quietly said "OK" and we continued to discuss the Super Bowl. There comes a time, hopefully sooner rather than later, we all need to accept the truth. Truth in our human condition. Truth in what Sacred Scripture tells us. Truth in what the Volumes reveal.

In today's Gospel (John 5:31-47), Jesus asks us to accept the Truth:

Jesus said to the Jews:  “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.  I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

In Anne's book Staying in Place, the following quote is clear . . . understanding Christ allows us to accept our own truth:

"Clearly, love is different from what people initially think when they hear the word. Love is vaster. Love demands a response and an honest acknowledgment of both frailty and vulnerability. We love with hearts that have been broken or with hearts that will be broken. Christ’s heart was broken at falseness, inconsistency and betrayal. We want to be as faithful as Christ was in our love for God in each other. But we must accept that we will fall short. If we have a full grasp of our teachings, we can negotiate our weaknesses, always striving for growth. But without each vocation integrating the teachings actively and ‘out loud’, so to speak, nobody really knows what this Christianity of ours is supposed to look like."

Lay apostles, have you accepted the Truth? Do you believe what you read in Sacred Scripture or do you look at it as the ramblings of a distant past? Read the Volumes to help you make sense of it all. The Gospel will begin to resonate deep within instead of in one ear and out the other.

Thank you, Lord, for Your Words in the Volumes.  They have made the Bible come alive for me.

God bless,

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Gospel Thoughts Today: Insane Persecution

Jay enjoys ticker symbols racing across the TV in our commercial real estate office. He keeps CNBC on silent to be able to glance up once in a while to see how our stocks are performing. Personally, keeping this #FakeNews station on annoys me once in a while when all I see is negative headlines regarding our patriotic President! President Trump suffers so much persecution from the biased, flagrant media. But then, it's the standard nowadays, isn't it? Thank God he doesn't seem fazed by any of it and continues his mission of Making America Great Again! I swear, he could invent the cure for cancer and the Left would say he was biased toward those who have (fill in the blank)! Thank God he is at the helm during this China virus pandemic. I can't even imagine anyone else running the U.S.

Lay apostles, there has always been persecution . . . the most prominent being Christ. The more I think about this, the more unruffled I feel. If people insisted on murdering the Son of God, what makes me think anyone is free of inhumane behavior or attacks on any one of us?  So, how do we handle all the criticism and insanity? We do just as Jesus did. Pick up our cross and continue in perseverance with the end goal in mind . . . heaven.

The Gospel today (John 5:1-16) demonstrates the insanity Jesus encountered is no different than the liberal media of today:

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."  He answered them, "The man who made me well told me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?" The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.

The quote below from Anne in her book Staying in Place is perfect . . . let the Lord handle those who persecute:

"Regarding circumstances outside of our control? Those are the Lord’s affair. Healthy detachment protects us from disillusionment when we are persecuted and we must see the hand of God where the institutional Church acts protectively. Women, in particular, cannot fail to honor the massive contribution of our sisters gone before us. We must persevere in their footsteps, caring for all beloved men, women and children and actively assisting in the formation of the next generation. We protect the development of the Church by ongoing contribution in order to balance what can only be viewed as lopsided ministry where it is all male. Complementarity in Church leadership is the future. We must all, male and female, contemplate what that should look like and no doubt suffer to bring it about."

Lay apostles, persecution is the norm, so why are we surprised when we see it occur on the evening news? It's wrong, yes. It's inhumane at times, yes. View your persecutions with Jesus in mind. The next time you are chastised, take it on the chin for Christ, no matter how harsh the reality is. See it for what it is . . . harassment because of our beliefs. And, fear within the persecutor because his actions may be contrary to a belief system they refuse to follow due to sin they are not willing to give up. Think about it the next time you feel judged. And respond as Christ did.

Thank you, Lord, for bravery in persecutions. Without You, I am nothing. With You, I am humble. Give me the courage I need to make it home to heaven.

God bless,

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Gospel Thoughts Today: Comfortable in Nakedness

Nakedness in public places really bothers me. I am not a "naked" person. For example, in spas. Years ago I was redeeming a gift certificate from a well-known spa close to where I live. After a wonderful massage, I decided to hit the sauna and steam rooms. First I went into the sauna, where I was alone. It was wonderful and peaceful. Then, on to the steam room. The steam was thick but I found my way to the bench where I placed the extra towel I had tucked under my arm. I was alone at first, then the door opened. To my surprise, an elderly woman walked in completely naked! And, sat bare-fanny on the bench across from me! As the steam dissipated, I happened to open my eyes (they were shut tight at this point!) as the steam machine began spurting, ready to release another round of thick fog. Noticing I was not "meditating" anymore, she took it upon herself to start a conversation. In any other situation, I am open to meeting new people. But where do you look when speaking to a naked person sitting across from you? Ugh. Sheer misery for me. After discovering I wasn't much of a conversationalist, she left the steam room. I was alone again. I started thinking about this elderly woman and the freedom she must feel exposing every flaw to the world, unaffected by what others could criticize. A new sense of confidence came over me and I untucked my towel and re-tucked it around my waist (I wasn't ready for full-blown nudity). I was feeling pretty good sitting in there alone, exposed. Just as I was feeling pretty proud of myself, the door opened. I quickly readjusted my towel and headed for the door. And what do you think I walked out to see? The elderly woman sitting naked in the hot tub! Thoughts of bacteria floating around made me shudder. I figured I was done and headed for the privacy of a bathroom stall to get dressed! I don't mind exposing my flaws in public (mistakes of my past, etc) . . . those which can benefit others when struggling. But the whole physical naked thing in public, well, some things will NEVER change!

In today's Gospel (Mark 4:21-25), Jesus wants us to be comfortable proclaiming His Name, which may include exposing our flaws for the world to see. Once exposed and internally accepted, nothing can draw us away from Him:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

In Anne a lay apostle's book Serving in Clarity, she beautifully explains why we must be aware of our nakedness and not be afraid to admit it:

"There was a story about a vain emperor. In order to gain favor with him, some unscrupulous ones persuaded the leader to proceed naked. Being a foolish man, the emperor allowed himself to be influenced by the flattery of those around him. He proceeded through his kingdom naked. Because of his power, nobody had the courage or mercy to speak the truth, which was that the emperor was wearing no clothes. Instead, they allowed him to humiliate himself. A small child with clear vision finally spoke up and said, 'The emperor is wearing no clothes.'There is a similar phenomenon in this time. Truth is often not spoken. This habit of keeping back the truth has allowed God’s enemy terrific latitude in spreading sin and immorality. In the essay entitled Common Sense, written by Thomas Paine, we read that 'a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.' So pervasive is this phenomenon that there is a name for it. It is called political correctness. I will take license and translate this term. Let us consider political correctness as a decision not to speak a truth if that truth will offend the sensibilities of those whose favor we seek. In other words, it would not be politically correct to share our honest feelings if our honest feelings would put us in bad favor with others. To be clear, it is not a decision to hold back the truth in order to avoid hurting the feelings of another, but a decision to hold back the truth to prevent reprisals of some kind. Hmm. How does this compare to the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God, in my experience, is all about truth. This truth is not negotiable and it does not change. Bad behavior is bad behavior and a bad behavior today does not become a good behavior tomorrow when we look at the spirit of the said behavior. How could it? Sin, a decision to separate oneself from God’s will, is known as sin in God’s Kingdom and none will spend time in heaven or purgatory trying to decide if a sin was a sin. If we search high and low in the next world, we will not find political correctness. What will we find? We will find truth, which is sometimes the opposite of political correctness. From the Christian point of view, which is the point of view Christians must operate from, it is merciful to speak the truth in love."

Lay apostles, what do you keep hidden from the world, or even from yourself? Are you afraid if you expose your flaws you won't be loved? Are you hesitant to correct a loved one for fear they won't love you in return? Are you judging someone who has bared their nakedness, trusting in you not to judge? We are all flawed. We are all beautiful in His Eyes. Have no fear in your nakedness, lay apostles. He is our protective barrier (in other words, our towel on the bench!).

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to expose my hidden truths and not be ashamed of them. They are my experiences and the path which led me to You.

God bless,

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Gospel Thoughts Today: Successful Detachment

When I was 19 years old, I rolled my Datsun B210 hatchback on a mountain pass. I was attending Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, headed home to the Denver area for Spring Break. In the accident, my nose met the steering wheel . . . hard. Broke my nose in a few places, got a few stitches in my shoulder, but I was alive. Needless to say, I didn't make it home, landing in the hospital overnight. About a week later I had a doctor's appointment to remove the packing in my nose. I could finally stop mouth-breathing, despite my nasal passages still being quite swollen. A roommate suggested I use nasal spray to decrease the swelling. Man, did it clear me right up!  And then 4 hours later, stuffed up again. A week later, I couldn't live without it. I panicked if my little white bottle with the red writing wasn't within 2 feet of me. I was addicted to nose spray. A year later, my dependency lingered. The thought of quitting did cross my mind, but then it would be time for a few sprays and I wasn't willing to suffer just yet. Maybe next week, I thought.  I continued to make excuses for why I wasn't ready to quit. Another year went by and after getting married, I became pregnant with our first child. My doctor told me I had to quit the nose spray . . . I almost hyperventilated. Pregnant and not being able to breathe seemed unbearable. He thankfully prescribed decongestants for comfort during withdrawal. Detachment did not go well the first week.  As time went on, day by day, it got a little easier. At one month post-nasal-spray-addiction, I was healed. Over the last 35+ years, whenever I've had a stuffy nose, I think of that little white bottle with red writing.  I'm thankful it helped me through a tough time, and I am thankful I successfully detached!

Today's Gospel (Mark 3:31-35) is at first a little surprising coming out of the mouth of our Savior.  But after contemplation, I see the value of detachment:

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God  is my brother and sister and mother.”

In Volume One, Thoughts on Spirituality, Anne shares her experience of Jesus and His detachment during her Stations of the Cross:

"On the First Station today, Jesus pointed out that when He received the death sentence and was condemned to die, He felt a momentary feeling of panic and revulsion. It was His humanity protesting at the idea of its death. He said we need to separate ourselves from the world and practice detachment from worldly things, human respect, and at times even people. We must separate because if we become too attached to these things, we cannot serve Him with completeness, which is what we are striving to obtain, completeness in Christ and in service to Christ. That is our goal, and we must set our spiritual bar very high. If we practice this, and make it a habit, we will not be disappointed or drown under the inevitable situation where the world or its people withdraw their esteem or affection from us. At times, if you are in the service of Christ, you will be attacked. When your eyes are set on heavenly things and you are detached, you will suffer the initial feeling of revulsion at this, and perhaps panic, but soon your focus will realign itself, your will will make the correction, and the attack will not disturb your peace too much. I think the great saints remained recollected in times of attack. They abhorred too much affection and ran from adulation. They knew."

Lay apostles, do you heavily rely on someone or something to make your life better? What would happen if him/her/it was taken away from you? Would you fall apart or move on? Sometimes it seems too hard to let go of something you love or feel you can't live without. The thing is, we are never alone or without help. Jesus and all of heaven are always on standby waiting to jump in and assist where we need the help. As Jesus says above, we cannot serve Him when we rely on someone or something else.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me detachment is necessary in order to serve You completely.

God bless,