Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we rooted in Christ?

The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you." Then he said to his disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you, 'Look, there he is,' (or) 'Look, here he is.' Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. Luke 17:20-23

Does it seem to anyone else that we hear more and more people these days trying to predict the end of the world or the second coming? With movies like 2012 hitting the big screen, it can be tempting to start to buy into some of the hype. As we've been doing all week, though, we must remain solid in our foundation and rooted in Christ, or we'll wander all over the place. In this passage from Luke, Jesus speaks to us so clearly today - it's as if he's seen the trailer and is shaking his head saying, "Listen, just stand firm and don't buy into the hype."

In fact, going beyond just telling us to not run after any possibility of his coming again, he tells us rather, that the kingdom of God is here among us. In that time, he was telling the Pharisees and his disciples that God was in their midst. Today, he tells us the same thing - Christ LIVES. We can begin to get into the mindset that Jesus was here 2000 years ago, we're around now trying to live up to his example, and then he'll come again one day (and we try to guess at when). We forget that our God is a living God, alive in our midst, made present to us in the Eucharist, in his in-dwelling Spirit that lives in each of us. If we worry about when Christ may come to the earth in physical form again, we lose sight of his very real presence among us now, and forget that we must continue to follow him today. Do we stay rooted in the living Christ or are we chasing the future?

Let us pray that we might recognize Christ as he reveals himself in our midst each day, remaining rooted in the living God now, following his call to us in the present rather than pining for a future we cannot predict.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we willing to stand our ground against evil?

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. Ephesians 6:12-13

We talk at great length about the power of God in our lives. In this current culture, though, to talk about the power of the evil one is not as comfortable a topic. No one wants to point the finger at something and claim it to be the work of evil. Yet, if we believe in the Word of God, we know that evil works in the world to separate us from God at every turn. From Adam and Eve in the garden to the present day, there is evil at work in the world. To be able to face our struggles, we have to acknowledge that. Once we acknowledge that evil is present, we are more apt to understand the great necessity to protect ourselves with a firm, solid faith - to understand that God does work for good, but He is not the only one at work. If we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we must be vigilant in protecting that temple. It should impress upon us the need to call upon the name of Jesus with certainty in the midst of our struggles and hardships, and to do so for those around us we see immersed in the darkness of the world.

To name evil when we see it is not to be intolerant of people in our midst. There is a great fear that we will be labeled as intolerant or some type of "-ist" if we speak the Truth about darkness. We must not fear. Truth must always be spoken in charity and without labeling people as evil, but if we do not call out the darkness and bring it into the light of Christ, then we are likely to be overcome by it. We cannot battle evil on our own - as much as movies may lead us to believe we can. The strength of our spirit is great, but it is Christ's Spirit within us, not our own human strength which gives us the fortitude and wisdom to fight the battle.

Make no mistake, the battle that began in Eden continues to this day. We know the end - we know Christ wins. The question is, are we willing to call on His name and stand our ground against evil in the world today?

Let us pray that we might readily call on the Holy Spirit and bring any darkness in our lives into the light of Christ, calling on the name of Jesus to overcome the struggles and battles we (and those around us) face.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we passive recipients of God's Word?

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined. Matthew 7:24-27

We continue on our theme of dwelling and building today with this passage from Matthew. Once again, our lives and our bodies are likened to a house. What strikes me in reading this passage is that it is not simply hearing the words of Christ that strengthen us, but acting on them. It is not enough to passively receive Christ - we must actively practice what He has taught us. We all know that what we learn we do not retain if it is not practiced. That is precisely the wisdom Jesus leaves us with here.

If we listen and act on what He teaches us, we begin to grow more firm in our practiced faith. If we merely listen and do nothing, when push comes to shove, there is no guarantee that we will retain what we have heard. To remain strong, we must be active in practicing our faith, and in living out that which Christ has taught us. Our faith community surrounds us to help us in this. We are called to help each other build ourselves up in Christ, to practice a living faith in our daily lives, to create a solid foundation for those times we are under pressure from the world. Are we helping one another to live out the faith we received from Christ?

Today, pray that we might find ways to act on our faith and remain attentive to the ways that the Spirit presents us with those opportunities throughout our week.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we make room for God to dwell in us?

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

When we think of a temple or church, what immediately comes to mind? Most likely it is an image of a structure, a building, something external to ourselves. How many of us would readily say that we are worthy to be a house of God? I know I wouldn't. That is, however, exactly what Paul reminds us that we are - a temple of our living God. If we remembered this and really took it to heart, how would we change our lives? Apart from the blatantly physical ramifications (for instance, perhaps God does NOT like McDonald's quite as much as I do), how would our behavior toward others change? How would our churches change?

This verse is at the culmination of Paul's rebuke of some of the early churches who are already in their time creating division by claiming to belong to one or another apostle, acting out of a spirit of jealousy and rivalry. We, as children of God, have one foundation - Jesus Christ. We seek unity in and under Him, and in the one Spirit by which we were baptized. In today's day and age, the divisions are endless. How do we contribute to those divisions?

Let us pray that we might live in complete awareness of the one Spirit of God that dwells within each of us, and draw each other closer to the source of life that is Christ our Lord. May we work to eliminate all division in the body of Christ, calling on the Holy Spirit to remove any trace of jealousy, rivalry, selfishness and pride from our midst, making us truly one Body under Christ once again.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we hide in darkness?

Everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Ephesians 5:14
We are rarely in complete darkness. Even when I stumble around at night, eventually my eyes adjust and I can see enough to find my way around the house. In the same way, our spiritual lives are not ever in complete darkness no matter how troubled we might feel. Christ, our light, is always at our side. If we keep our eyes closed and choose to wallow in solitary darkness, that is our choice, but one that is completely unnecessary. All throughout the Scriptures, we are promised light, and we know that God fulfills his promises.
Too often, we walk around with our eyes closed creating our own darkness, instead of calling on the name of Jesus to give light to our lives, our fears and our worries. We would rather carry them around and it is a symptom of our unbelief. I know I am guilty of this myself. If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior, why carry around our burdens and stumble in self-imposed darkness? "Arise, O sleeper!" Basically - wake up already! God is here, Christ is alive and he brings us His light. Why in the world would we close ourselves to that?
Today, let's put all our cares, worries, concerns and doubts out into the light of Christ and pray that He may lead us in the Truth and free us from all our burdens. Amen!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do We Watch What We Say?

LORD, I call to you; come quickly to help me; listen to my plea when I call. Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice. Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips. Psalm 141:1-3

Do you ever have those moments during the day where you want to take back something you've said? Ideally, if our lips are being used in prayer, they're less likely to utter those things that make us hit our foreheads in disbelief of the things that sometimes come out of our mouths. Now, I don't know any of us who spend our entire day engaged in vocal prayer - so perhaps this little psalm prayer should be our first!

We sometimes forget the power our words have to wound one another. Even the slightest utterance, if taken the wrong way or spoken in a moment of frustration, can leave lasting scars that lead us no closer to Christ. Do we spend enough time in prayer to know when the words that are on the tip of our tongue are not of the Spirit...or are perhaps being used by an entirely different spirit?

Perhaps we might utter this prayer a little more often, or one of our own, asking the Lord's intervention. Let us pray that the Lord might keep us from speaking unless they are words that do Him justice, and keep us out of trouble!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do We Thank God Honestly?

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever. Psalm 30:11-12

When we are in the midst of our own misery, it sometimes feels as though it will never end. Yet, even out of the greatest suffering, God brings joy and hope. I know in my own life, though it was a miserable walk through the most trying time of it, in the end I only recall the peace and hope that God had placed in my life...through friends, through the gift of Himself. I cannot imagine how one deals with sorrow and suffering without the hand of God walking them through it and lifting them up.

As much as I cherish that experience, I also know just how easy it is to fall back into the slightest bit of despair when life is not going your way. The challenge for us today is to remain aware of the transforming power of God in our lives, and to constantly give honest thanks to Him for all He has done and continues to do. It is not of our own power, or anyone else's, that we are brought out from situations of darkness and sadness - let's honestly give thanks that the Lord never abandons us, even in what seems to be the worst times of our lives. Even better, let's not be shy to share that work of God in our lives...

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we lose sight of Jesus in our busyness?

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Luke 10: 40-42

Continuing on our theme of "busyness" this week, we have the story of Martha and Mary. It's a story I, and I'm sure many of you, know well. For my part, it is because I tend to be more of a Martha, always scurrying about, "serving." I am at first somewhat mystified when Jesus says that Mary has the better part, and then I hear him saying it to me. "Come, rest, be with me, listen to me, then go."

We busy ourselves, even with the best of intentions, but sometimes we end up spinning our wheels and getting frustrated because we have forgotten that even our action should rest in the Lord.

Today, take a moment, even in the midst of chaos, to sit at the feet of Jesus and see what a difference that can make.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we really too busy to worship?

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people." 2 Corinthians 6:16

Having just come back from Rome, it is easier to envision the masses of images and idols that served as objects of worship for the ancient people. Yet, in our own day and age, we lift up our own graven images and objects that take the place of God. Where are we on Sunday - church or in front of the TV? How about daily? How many of us take the time each day to worship God (and I don't mean just recite a few prayers, call it good and move on...)? I know I am guilty of that all too familiar "Sorry, Lord, I was busy!"

Busyness, as we touched on earlier this week, can be a great block to God's grace in our lives...or at least our openness to receiving the grace He offers. Busyness can be just as much an 'idol,' and perhaps worse, as it is often a figment of our imagination. How can we possibly be too busy for God? God promises to live with us, to move among us...and we're too busy for that?

Worship doesn't need to be a static practice, done only in the brick and mortar building of a church, with prayers that have been prescribed by others. Worship is a way of living, not just an action. Taking time to worship each day can be as simple as realizing that God is with us in our busy lives, as simple as offering our work for the day to Him, opening it to His blessing and His will.

Today, let's ask ourselves if we are really too busy to worship or if we've just forgotten how. If it is the latter, and let's hope it is, then let us also pray that God might send forth the wisdom of His Spirit to infuse our hearts with the knowledge and desire to live our lives in worship of Him.

Come Holy Spirit!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we working in vain?

In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat; when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. Psalm 127:2

We work harder and longer hours than ever before, trying to make ends meet, trying to live up to some standard set by some person we don't even know. We do all this to what end? The cry in Ecclesiastes comes to mind - "Vanity of vanities!" What does all this toiling accomplish? Is it even toiling or idle busyness that keeps us occupied all hours of the day and night? Television, internet, even books and socializing to some extent, can distract us from what we really need.

Where are we making time to rest in the Lord? It seems absurd in a culture obsessed with "doing" that sleeping might actually be a time for the Lord. Yet, studies continue to show that it is essential for our health that we provide ourselves that rest, that time of rebuilding physically - so why is it so outlandish to think that is a time for rebuilding spiritually as well? God often comes to us in our dreams, and God can work in us however and whenever He wishes. It just might be that it is easier for Him to do His work when we have finally stopped doing what we think is our work.

As we work today, pray that our work might be an outward use of the gifts God has given us to share, that our work may be rooted and strengthened by the work God is doing in us. And tonight, let's give ourselves a little more time to rest in and with the Lord...

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we consumed with seeking signs?

[This generation] seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Johan became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. Luke 11:29b-30

Signs, signs everywhere there's signs... Have we become a culture obsessed? There is definitely a pocket of people in a frenzy over the end-times. This hurricane, that fire...could it be the onset of the end times? Let's not forget the Mayan calendar ends in 2012! Isn't this just a new twist on the Garden...seeking to have the full knowledge and power of God?

As a people of God, our sign is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that we know not the day nor the hour, but that we must live our lives ready for that time. We constantly seek signs of his will for us, but I think what we truly seek is reassurance. We want to know that we are walking down the right path, that Jesus is at our side, that we are not alone. Yet, if we do not seek Christ, if we do not deepen our relationship and grow closer to the heart of Jesus, we cannot understand the "signs" he does give us. We cannot recognize the whisper of Christ if we are not seeking to be close to his Word. We cannot feel the nudge of His breath if we are not living in the Spirit.

Today, let's take a moment to let the breath of God into our hearts more fully and consider this: are we more interested in seeking signs or seeking Christ?

The Frugal'n'Fab ATL Challenge: Eating on $30/week

The challenge? Eat for a whole week on $30. Read more about the challenge many Atlanta bloggers are participating in over the week. Frugal'n'Fab gives it a slightly different spin, reminding us that so much of the world eats for far less than that (try $1/day). In fact, she may begin a weekly Wednesday challenge, but you'll have to read her blog for that!

The question to you is this: could you live on $30 a week for food? How about $1/day? Would you even be willing to try? Stay tuned for our own Genesis Ministries challenge in the month of November. If you have suggestions for the exact details of what our challenge should be, leave 'em here!

Daily Prayer Reflection: How far does our mercy extend?

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. Luke 6:35-38

It's a tough day for mercy for some, I imagine. This morning, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was announced and I truly believe the news shocked the majority of the world. There are those who will revel in the excitement of this announcement, and others who will spew venom. It is the latter half that this morning's prayer seems aptly fitting for.

It is no accident that the Holy Spirit led me to this passage this morning - I myself was astounded by the news. As I sat with these words of Christ, the question that kept popping in my head (after the "Whaaat?" from the headline), was "how far does my mercy extend?" coupled with the reminder that it is not for us to judge the heart of another. Actions...sure. But we won't go into the specifics here - I want to focus on the heart of the prayer.

How far does mercy extend? Are we able to set aside our own judgments to let God work through us? Are we too quick to jump to conclusions and spew forth our opinions, whatever they may be? In this passage from Luke, Jesus reminds us that it is easy to love and forgive those who love us, those whom we love. The greater task of our Christian walk is to extend that same charity and mercy to those we do not have affection for, for those who may offend us at every turn.

In the end, the only actions we can truly control are our own. As much as we can influence others and pray that they may act wisely, we cannot act for them. Let our actions always reflect God's endless mercy and forgiveness. We can be skeptics and critics, but let it be of actions and not the core of a person, and let our criticism always be bathed in charity. Let us remember always that God is the one and only judge, and we are best left sometimes to hold our tongue and extend our hearts.

Daily Prayer Reflection: What Are We Asking For?

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened...If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11:9-10,13

Ask and you will receive... I think this may be one of the most hopeful and yet disheartening verses of Scripture for many people. Hopeful, because Christ makes us a great promise. Disheartening because we stop reading after two lines and misunderstand him. So many times I've been asked 'why, if we pray and are faithful, do our prayers go unanswered? God promised to answer, that we would receive what we asked for honestly in prayer!'

If we read the full passage here, however, we see that what Jesus promises us, what it is that we should be asking for, is the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Spirit and you will receive. Seek the Spirit and you will find it. Knock at the Spirit's door, and he will answer. Ahhh...that's right, God is not a genie. We don't simply make our wishes and demands known in order to have him grant them. God most certainly answers all our prayers...it's just that he answers them according to His will, not ours, so sometimes the answer is "no"...or at least, "not yet."

The great lesson of this passage for me today is that what we should be asking for with more desire is the Holy Spirit - that is the great gift that God has for us...his own Spirit that lives with us and in us. Through the Holy Spirit, we grow closer to the will of God so that our deepest desires mirror his more closely. After all, what God desires for us is what in the end is most fulfilling. So...what are we waiting for? Ask, seek and find!

Come, Holy Spirit!

Daily Prayer Reflection: How do we get past a prayer block?

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." Luke 11:1

Of course, if you continue reading this passage, it leads us to Luke's version of what has become known as the staple Christian prayer of the Our Father. Many saints over the years have provided their prayerful guidance in the use of that prayer. Jesus leaves us with great direction in teaching us, through his disciples and the apostles, that prayer. But, what do we do when rote prayer becomes all we can offer? Is that enough?

The beauty of the "rote prayers" of Catholicism is that they are there when that IS all we can offer. It is no mistake that Jesus gave us words to pray, knowing that there would be times when we would be lost, feeling weary and without direction. It is no coincidence that the Church continues in the footsteps of Christ, through the saints and apostles of prayer, to give us other prayers to help us begin our conversation with God when we are at a loss.

Yet, it is not the Our Father or those prayers I wish to focus on today. While they are meaningful and good prayers, it is the question of the disciples in the passage above that peaks my interest. When we are down and out and feeling disconnected, how do we move past that block to prayer? Does pulling out an "oldie but goodie" standard prayer move us? Or do we use it as a crutch to fulfill a perceived obligation to pray?

The question the disciples ask may be the first clue as to the real mode of jumping over any hurdles to prayer - ask God. One theologian, (Richard Rohr, I believe), said something to the effect of 'the more we talk, the less it is prayer.' I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking in order to pray, we've got to find the right words. Yet, time and time again in Scripture we are reminded that we are able to connect to the Father and Son by the gift of the Spirit. It is the Spirit moving in us that inspires us into communion with God. When we are struggling, it is the Spirit we invite in to change our hearts, to silence us if we need, or to empower us with words if it be the will of God.

Sometimes, our need to be vocal in prayer is its own hindrance to deeper prayer. Next time you are having trouble praying, simply open yourself and ask the Spirit to pray in and through you, teaching you to pray and converse more closely with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May it lead you leaps and bounds beyond whatever prayer obstacle you faced!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize the good in all God's creation?

The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures. Psalm 145:8-9

Kind, full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love...how many people do we know who fit that bill? I'd like to think that many of us come so very close, and yet, in that moment of carelessness, the snide remark, the angry retort, the closed heart creeps in. Is it that we are not "good Christians"? I don't think so. I think in the end, it is that we are of human flesh and blood and those human weaknesses are exploited at times.

I wonder, too, if part of the problem is that we are so conditioned to decide who is "in" and who is "out" from an early age, that our attitudes toward people are more apt to let us slide in Christian charity to those who are "less worthy" of our compassion, kindness, gentleness and love. But we are not to be of this world, though we most certainly live in it. We are to pattern ourselves after Christ, who recognized the goodness of all creation as the work of his Father.

I remember on one retreat, as we were talking about forgiveness, someone shared this little pearl of wisdom - even Jesus on the cross called upon his Father's name and power, not his own, to forgive those who were torturing him and killing him. Perhaps, when we are unable to see the good in someone or something that is causing us distress, we can offer them back to the Lord, asking his blessing on them when we are ourselves are not up to offering our own.

And let us always pray that the Lord, creator of all, might break into our own human frailty at moments we need to see his goodness in what surrounds us.

Come, Lord Jesus, enter our hearts...

From Respect Life Sunday to Respecting Life Always...

Here is an uplifting story about a proactive initiative to help college age students faced with an unplanned pregnancy... Interestingly, Belmont is the home of Belmont Abbey College which has recently found itself in the midst of a tussle regarding the legality of the restrictions in its insurance coverage for employees. The College, in accordance with Catholic teaching, does not include coverage for abortions, prescription contraceptives or elective sterilization procedures. [Read more here]

Center Aims to Give Pregnant College Students True Choice
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —Lacy Dodd, a 33-year-old banking professional and mother of one, knows precisely where supporters and opponents of legal abortion can find common ground.

It's on nearly four acres donated by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C., where Room at the Inn, a Charlotte-based pregnancy resource center, hopes to build the nation's first campus-based maternity and after-care residence for pregnant college students.... [Read full story]

Daily Prayer Reflection: Who is in charge of our lives?

O search me, God and know my heart. O test me and know my thoughts. See that I follow not the wrong path and lead me in the path of life eternal. Psalm 139:23-24

Have you ever seen those bumperstickers out there that say "God (or Jesus) is my co-pilot"? I always laugh at first and then am reminded rather quickly that they are just a little bit off on their enthusiasm. God is not our "co-pilot" - God is the pilot. We're not just passengers along for the ride, but neither are we in equal position with God.

If we read any story in Scripture, we are constantly reminded that great trouble begins when we think we can take the lead and see if God will follow. The same still rings true today. Though it is a lesson often learned not with any little effort, there is great release in getting to the point in our relationship with God that we can turn the reins over to Him and learn to take direction. It is entirely freeing to realize we do not always need to know it all or be able to do it all. A burden is taken off our shoulders when we live with the knowledge that God will prepare our way, even in ways we would never imagine. We have to work in cooperation with God, of course, but even when we screw up, as we inevitably will, God will make it right again if we allow him room to move.

So today, take a moment to pray about who is in charge of your life...is God your co-pilot or the pilot?

Sorry for the hiatus!

My apologies for not posting before leaving, but we are on a hiatus until October 4! I am currently on my honeymoon in Rome, so you won't hear from me until we return. I will post some pics of Papa B and highlights of some of the sites when I am back.

Until then, God bless!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Can We Offer God Everything?

How numerous, O LORD, my God, you have made your wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount. Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, "Here I am." Psalm 40:6-8a

Here I am, I come to do your will. That is all the Lord asks of us...all of ourselves. Yet, saying yes to the Lord is life-altering, and not always in ways we would anticipate or choose for ourselves. Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. We need only to look at the life of Mary to see the unthinkable ways in which the Lord leads us if we offer ourselves to Him. Betrothed, not married, she became with child. In the early years of her marriage, she fled her home to provide safety, trusting Joseph was being led by God. She raised a son, whom she loved as her son and God's son, only to see him brutally murdered, unable to help him...and asked not to do so as his sacrifice was for a greater cause. For her faith and for her suffering she was greatly rewarded with protection throughout her life and a glorious assumption into heaven at the end of it.

Now, we're no Mary, that's for sure! Like Mary, though, we need to keep our eyes focused on the bigger picture. It is easy to get stuck in the little trying details, but when we step back I think most of us would agree that God's hand has blessed us more than we sometimes acknowledge. Today, let's let go of what we hold back from God, and following Mary's example, offer our whole lives to him with expectant faith and trust in his providence for us.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Is the cross a stumbling block for us?

...But we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25

That Christ allowed himself to be crucified is indeed a weakness in the eyes of the world. The great and glorious God-man subjected himself to the torturous and humiliating death of a criminal. Foolishness? Stumbling block? Or as St. Paul so beautifully explains in Philippians, a perfect act of total humility, not humiliation?

This is the question we must ask ourselves. Do we understand the necessity and power of the cross, some two thousand years later, or has it become once again a stumbling block that confounds us or a glitch in the story that seems a little far-fetched and foolish? In addition to the physical structure of torture, the cross refers to our own struggles and suffering. There is no denying that in this life, we have been and are separated from God. This separation brings with it inherent struggles, varying in degrees for everyone. Add to that this notion: to believe in Christ, to LIVE in Christ is not a comfortable life. It is one filled with choices, and as foretold in the Gospels, one in which we will have to bear our cross. We have a choice. We can embrace that suffering, recognizing its ability to unite us with Jesus, or we can allow it to become a stumbling block in our faith. We can call upon the name of Christ, who endured crucifixion, in our suffering, or we can try to alleviate it through our own means. In the end, which is the real foolishness?

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do We See Ourselves as One in Christ?

The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth. Isaiah 25:8

On this day eight years ago, we - a new generation of Americans - experienced a tragedy that we'd only heard equaled in our history books. For the first time in our lives, American soil had been attacked in grand scale. The fear, the sorrow, the disbelief - it was all overwhelming for some. Even in challenge, the spirit of the nation moved toward compassion and unity, if only for a moment. And then...we turned to revenge. The dark side of trauma came to light - the anger, the suspicion, and blatant racism returned.

Those are choices we face every day. In the midst of trying times, our weaknesses gain a little strength. It is up to us to continue to call upon the Lord to give us strength, to dry our tears, so that we may choose always to live in the light of compassion and mercy, guided by the Holy Spirit and not by the powers of darkness that reside in anger and vengeance.

Eight years later, we've moved on a little, especially if we feel we weren't personally affected. But then, can any of us truly claim that? How many of us know someone who lost someone, or someone who was safe but there? How many of us know someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or someone who was lost there? In a bout of myopic self-centeredness, we might say "I am unaffected." We, however, belong to a greater body than our own - we belong to the body of Christ. In each others' misery, we are always affected...if we choose to acknowledge it.

Today, regardless of what side of the political spectrum we inhabit, let us once again put aside our own opinions and assurances. Let us pray instead for all those who lost their lives in that tragic day and in the years that followed, those who still mourn loved ones, those who are serving their country in the military and their loved ones...let us pray that we may see ourselves connected as one in Christ.

And perhaps even more difficult, let's remember to also pray for those who committed these atrocities and continue to use violence in the name of God.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Has the Golden Rule gotten tarnished?

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:12-14

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. Luke 6:27-32

Ouch. That is the only thing I think every time I read these words of Christ. Well, "ouch" and "d'oh!" I'd say many of us probably read this thinking...oops - I'll get it next time... Unfortunately, our lives aren't to be lived for "next time" - we're supposed to embrace this now. What really strikes me about this passage is not the Scripture alone, but the impression that people make when they actually live in this peace and kindness.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of people whom I have never heard say a nasty word about anyone. That's not to say that they haven't been upset or frustrated. Instead, it is to say that their reaction was not one of gossiping or badmouthing those who were the culprit of their frustration. It's easy to judge, saying "oh, they're just fake!" And yet, there is this undeniable peace in their spirit that exudes an honest joy, even in their sorrow.

Today, that characteristic is, unfortunately, rare. Judgment falls before mercy and compassion. Pride edges out humility. Infatuation and addiction replace Love. Fear overcomes trust. This is not what Christ intended for those who call on His name! "Fear not!" "Love one another..." "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..." That, dear friends, is what our Lord calls us to.

Faith, hope and love - it's not just a trite verse to be used at weddings - it is a way of life to be seated at our very core. It is a way of life that lets us lead with mercy, to love without fear, to live with the knowledge that all we are is by the grace of God, and what a privilege He has given us - each and every one of us. It is what helps us to live out that Golden Rule. Has the gold tarnished in your own life?

Fr. Leo Patalinghug of "Grace Before Meals" takes on Bobby Flay of the Food Network!

Father Leo Patalinghug believes that the key to a healthy family are healthy meals eaten together, and he's sending that message out through his web show, "Grace Before Meals." With 10,000 hits a day, Father Leo is able to share his wisdom and his family friendly recipes in order to feed his flock: body, mind and soul.

With dishes like Fusion Steak Fajitas, Father Leo is winning over his audience with every bite. But, will a little divine intervention help this Father when the Grill Master Bobby Flay heads into town on this episode of Throwdown?

To find out more about Fr. Leo and his ministry, visit the Grace Before Meals website at www.gracebeforemeals.com!

Watch the episode on the Food Channel tonight, September 9 @ 9 p.m. ET/PT or catch a repeat airing later in September!

Sep 10, 2009 @ 12:00 AM ET/PT or Sep 20, 2009 @ 11:00 PM ET/PT

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we look for open windows when a door has closed?

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. Isaiah 11:1

The poetic and vivid imagery of this passage in Isaiah serves to illustrate the wonder of God, that from this stump, he called forth a new shoot of life, and not only just a shoot, but one from which a delicate flower would bloom and blossom. When we see a stump in a field or yard, we hardly think "oh! I wonder what will grow there..." A stump is usually what's left of a tree that will be no more, and if you're camping, can serve as a great table or chair!

Yet, in this passage, it is precisely from a stump that this new life springs. God can pull forth life out of things that we never could. Perhaps that is why so many people, drowning in their own humanity, simply choose to give up. It is so easy to think "no more can come of this", when something seems "over and done with." That is not the mind of God. There is no end, only new beginnings. With God, new life springs forth from what seems to be the deadest tree, if only a vine to wrap around it and reach new heights.

As the old saying goes, "When God closes a door, He opens a window." I myself like to add a wee bit more to that - when God closes a door, He opens a window, but we still have to jump out. Do we look for those windows and take the plunge or spend so much time looking back at the door we don't feel the fresh new breeze blowing into our lives?

Mass Prep: God chose those who are poor to be heirs of the kingdom...

Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared. Isaiah 35:4-5

Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here, please," while you say to the poor one, "Stand there," or "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs? James 2:1-4

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, "Ephphatha!" (that is, "Be opened!") And (immediately) the man's ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. Mark 7:32-35

Jesus continues to challenge our way of thinking in this world. When we are deceived by the apparent importance of people, God chooses the "lowly" to transform our minds, if we only listen. This weekend, allow the Word of God to penetrate your heart, ask that Christ might cure our own deafness and blindness to those things he is trying so desperately to reveal to us. Let us come renewed in Christ to see one other through his eyes alone, and not by the measures of this world.

Come Holy Spirit!

AIDS, Africa and the Catholic Church

There is no denying that the AIDS pandemic is still a serious issue in Africa. There is also no denying that the Church's stance on the use of condoms has come under attack by those acting in an effort to bring the spread of the disease under control. Recently, one scientist came on the scene to back up what the Holy Father has been saying all along - condoms may actually contribute to the spread of the disease, not the prevention of it.

Uh...what? Yes, I know, it doesn't seem a logical statement at first glance. The researcher, however, was pointing out the psychological, rather than physical, attributes of promoting condom use as a remedy. Promoting the use of condoms for "safe sex" gave people an unwarranted confidence in the safety of engaging in sexual behavior so long as a condom was used, increasing the likelihood that they would be less careful, and increasing the possibility of spreading the disease. Likewise, it was shown that in countries where the cultural attitudes toward sex were first addressed, efforts to decrease the spread of the disease was far more effective. (Read the full article here)

More recently, a delegate of US Bishops visited South Africa and saw firsthand the effect the church-run programs were having on those affected by HIV/AIDS. In a great example of how church and state can effectively work together, the Bishops visited with the staff of the US embassy in Swaziland to arrange for US government funding of these church-run programs. "The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, provides extensive funds for the AIDS projects run by the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, which includes the bishops of Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana."

To read more on the work being done by the diocesan clinics visited by the Bishops, read the full article at Catholic News Service.

Finding Faith on the Battlefield...

God's time is God's time. God's ways are God's ways. And sometimes, those times and ways are completely unexpected. In the midst of chaos and violence, Cpl. Andrew Roy, Jr. found his way back to Christ and the Eucharist. Not only that, but in the middle of Afghanistan he is now leading others to explore the possibility of that reunion as well. When God comes in power, our transformation is unbelievable!

(from Catholic News Service)
Roy, who never made it past his first Communion to confirmation until adulthood, struggled with understanding and embracing his faith for most of his life, until this deployment to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division.
"In May, he was bringing in books to disprove God's existence, and now he's willing to fight for it," said the Rev. Jeff Masengale, a captain and a Southern Baptist chaplain.

"I just wanted to rile things up," Roy told Catholic News Service.
But over a three-month period, discussions between the two men led Roy back to his Catholic roots. Recently, he decided to turn his private research into a catechism class for other soldiers on this forward operating base, or FOB. READ MORE

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize our need for God?

Those who see me in the street run far away from me. I am likea dead man, forgotten, like a thing thrown away. But as for me, I trust in your, Lord, I say: "You are my God. Let your face shine on your servant. Save me in your love." Psalm 31: 13, 15, 17

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:1-2

Ahh, the Pharisees...always missing the meaning in the moment, lost in their own righteousness. If we are honest, we have a lot of moments like them too, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. The sinners and tax collectors (could there be a more unworthy bunch?) were all rapt with attention listening to Jesus, this man who actually gave them the time of day. Yet the Pharisees came only to judge, with no effort to listen to his teaching until it was pointedly directed at them. Even still, Jesus has reminded the Pharisees before that those who are well are not in need of a physician, yet, the lesson has not sunk in. This time, Jesus tells them that the Lord rejoices more over the repentance of one sinner than the existence of many righteous who have no need of repentance (or think they have no need of repentance).

In contrast, the Psalmist is quite clear of his own dire condition. "I am like a dead man..." He knows his own weakness. Even in that weakness, though, his trust remains in God and the ability and desire of the Lord to save us, if only from ourselves.

Today, let us ask ourselves if we are more like the Pharisees or the Psalmist. Let us pray that in true humility we might always see our need for God and find our strength in Christ. Amen.

Daily Prayer Reflection: What Do We Deem as Greatness?

The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12

What is our motivation for doing what we do? Sometimes in the larger things, we may feel that we come with noble motives, but what about the smaller everyday things? When we work, what is the purpose of what we do? Is it to feel accomplished, to be able to recommend ourselves, improve our own status? Or do we seek to be of help and to serve those around us, seeking instead the greater end over our own recognition?

This is the heart of what Jesus is telling his disciples, and continues to tell us today. It's easy to get caught up in thinking that a job is "ours", that no one else could do it or do it better at the very least, that we are the best at something - the most generous, the most loving, the best parent. Christ implores us to look beyond ourselves, to realize that our glory is aligned with His. Everything we do - work, school, family life - all of it is in service to one another, and in service of Christ. When those things are in jeopardy, we naturally feel the need to promote ourselves. Yet, the greater glory, it sounds like, is in continuing to serve selflessly and trusting that the Lord will provide all the recognition and promotion we need. It may not look as we want it to, but all will be well in the end.

Grant us rest, O Lord, from the worries in our hearts and help us to seek our greatness in You alone. Amen.

Sex & Prayer: [Pillow]Talk is Cheap...

Let's pray instead!

Ok, so if you're familiar with Scripture, you know that this is not a new concept. In the book of Tobit (one of the Catholic books not found in protestant bibles), Tobiah and Sarah pray before "consummation" the night of their wedding for Sarah to be set free from the demons that have plagued her. As a result, Sarah is set free and Tobiah does not join Sarah's other husbands in an early grave.

The Catholic Church has always held that sex is sacred - thus the Church's teaching on sex before marriage. The sexual encounter was created by God to be shared by man and woman to physically form a communion of persons. (Much more on that in John Paul II's Theology of the Body or any breakdown of that teaching.) Essentially, it allows us to participate in a special way in the unitive and creative powers of God, creating our own little trinitarian experience of husband, wife and Christ.

That is a little lost in today's world, and I'm sure there are many out there who will take issue with the synopsis of that teaching. The point is this, though - sex is, and always has been in the eyes of the Church, a form of prayer if entered into with the right mindframe. To create a written prayer for couples...well, perhaps that's a little strange, though maybe we have reached a point where having such a prayer will remind husbands and wives (and all others), that sex is not just a pastime or entertainment. Perhaps it will remind us that the sexual union of two people has a much deeper meaning, however adamantly we may try to downplay or deny that.

Read the full article here.

Scripture Symposium Talks Now Available on iTunes!

Missed the 2nd Annual Scripture Symposium in August? You can download the edited sessions on the Genesis Ministries page in iTunes!

Scripture in Our Daily Lives (iTunes download* | listen online)
by Sr. Sarah Burdick, S.G.L.

Sr. Sarah Burdick shares her wisdom on how Scripture has played a great role in shaping who she is today. Hear her real-life stories about the importance of drinking in the Word, struggles in living it out, and the power of the Word to convert us when we least expect it.

Jesus, Prayer & Scripture (iTunes download* | listen online)
by Dr. Peter Williamson

Dr. Peter Williamson takes us through a journey in Luke's gospel, exploring the way Jesus prays, teaches us to pray and the centrality of Scripture in the life of Jesus himself. Be drawn into the life of the Word by his exploration of the texts, relating the living Word of God to our everyday lives and the life of Christ.

*Choosing the iTunes download will open up the iTunes application on your computer.

Daily Prayer Reflection: What crushes our spirit?

For thus says he who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One: On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, To revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed. Isaiah 57:15

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. Psalm 86:3-7

There are so many of us out there walking around with heavy hearts, the weight of the world on our shoulders. Whether it be grieving the loss or sickness of a loved one, dejected by the injustice in the world, or fearful of what the future may bring, we each carry our own burdens...or do we? Sometimes in the midst of anguish, we forget that there are others out there who suffer with us. Though each one's agony is of their own variety, and it is not quite truthful to say we know fully what the other is going through, the fact still remains that we suffer together. More importantly, the fact remains that we suffer with Christ. Christ before us, Christ beside us, Christ behind us - whatever we need.

I am perplexed at how the "faithless" can get through the many struggles of life without the solace of knowing that someone walks beside them. I suppose in the end, I won't know the answer to that question entirely, and it would be presumptious and arrogant to say that in some way, they simply are blinded to an inherent faith that exists within (no matter how much I believe that). It only goes to emphasize, though, that we, who have kinship with Christ through our baptism, should remain ever mindful that when we feel dejected, that when we want to scream, there is always someone there to pick us up and to listen. The end we have in mind may not be the end He has in mind for us, but He is always there to show us His love and mercy if we seek it and open ourselves to the possibility of it.

Lord, have mercy on us now and always!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we seeking to become like gods, or belong to God?

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?" Mark 4:37-41

For centuries, there seems to have been a struggle between science and religion, one battling with the other, when in reality, they truly flow together if seen in the right perspective. Science flows from God as God is the Creator of all things, and God's wonderful artistry and imagination can be seen more clearly through the lens of science...if we keep it all in perspective.

In today's day and age, we are more and more inclined to try to control creation. Genetic engineering, weather manipulation, element creation...I can't help but wonder, are we trying to take over the role of God? It is the age-old temptation since the beginning of humanity - the serpent continues to whisper in our ears...you can BE like God...when the truth is rather that we can never be God as we are His creation, not His equal. We belong to God.

Through the example of Christ, we are asked to "be like" God, but not in the sense that we can "be God" - we are asked to put on Christ, to love as God loves, to humble ourselves as God did in taking on human form, to live and die with us. When the serpent whispers in our ears, tempting us to think we can become gods ourselves in this life, let us hope that the Holy Spirit answers back reminding us that we possess something greater than that temptation - the promise to live with God in all His glory by no merit of our own, but rather through the sacrifice, love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize our own poverty...?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free. Luke 4:18

...or do we think we know it all? That question is at the core of whether or not we receive the Word of God and drink it in with passion. If we think we already know it all, then there is nothing to be gained by allowing the Gospel to mold us and shape us. There is no difference and no room for anything more from God. Even Jesus recognized that this would be the case with some, acknowledging that "no prophet is accepted in his own native place." When the Word of God conflicts with how we think life should be, aren't we truthfully tempted to make excuses?

Well, the writers of the Bible weren't familiar with other possibilities... (Isn't God the supreme Author and doesn't His knowledge encompass all infinite possibilities of what is and can be?)

Yes, but things in their day were very different and not as advanced... (Isn't the core of the Word always true? And didn't Jesus challenge the customs and authorities of his day?)

To live a gospel life is to live contrary to secular culture. To live a gospel life is to continue to die to ourselves each morning and to let Christ in more with each breath. As contrary as it is to modern thought to let another rule our lives, if we do not admit our own poverty, we can never obtain the saving grace our soul seeks, and we may never breathe that sigh of relief that comes with letting go and letting God do the work within us.

Daily Prayer Reflection: What does God find when he searches our hearts?

O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar...For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother's womb...Already you knew my soul, my body held no secret from you...O search me, God and know my heart. O test me and know my thoughts. See that I follow not the wrong path and lead me in the path of life eternal. Psalm 139

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh Lord. St. Augustine

Today marks the memorial of St. Augustine, perhaps one of the most dramatic conversion stories from the early years of our faith. He's been known for such quips as "Lord grant me chastity...only not yet." Now, whether or not he actually said those words, I think many of us can identify with the sentiment. Deep down, we know we were created to be holy and blameless. Yet we have this strange fear that if we live our lives according to God's design, we'll be boring sticks in the mud.

We have only to look at our own history to know that the path God chooses for us is rarely boring. In fact, we are most fully alive when we are living in the way that God intends for us to live. Jesus came to share that Good News with us "I have come so that you may have life and have it abundantly." Those are not words of wallflowers!

Today also marks the day that three young women in our area are entering the religious life. One of them shared a bit of her journey of discernment with us, sharing that she enters today filled with peace and joy, but that the journey has had its share of running away from God's plan. She is certainly not alone, and God doesn't have to be calling you to the religious life for us to go running. When God comes calling, what does he find in our hearts? A desire for the truly good life, or a desire to get to that later while we live in the world for a bit and have our "fun"?

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we complain or pray?

Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith. Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13

"Night and day we pray..." Can you imagine the struggles of the first apostles as they set out to tell people of this wondrous, but logically unbelievable news? What of Jesus himself, who was abandoned at every turn? I think I can safely say that I would most certainly "vent" at the end of the day. Ok, let's call it what it is - I'd have a few complaints. Yet, we hear Paul talk about how the apostles prayed night and day for those to whom they went. Jesus to his very last prayed for those who betrayed him.

Prayer has a fruitful end. Whether it is the end we wish to see or an end we will ever see is not the point. Prayer in the hands of God, for the right purpose, bears fruit. Our complaints, though they may relieve us of some frustration in the short term, do not really bear any worthwhile fruit. When I was really struggling with some people in my life, I received some wisdom through a friend. She had been praying about the situation, and asked if I ever prayed for the person. I admitted I didn't really, and she suggested I start doing so every day. If nothing else, entering into prayer rather than a litany of whining changed my own heart toward them, and in the end, the only thing I can control is me.

Today, challenge yourself to lift up those people and situations in prayer that most lead you to complain. Do so daily, even just for one week, and see where God takes your heart.

Morning Prayer Reflection: What holds us back from our "YES!"?

But the LORD answered me, Say not, "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Jeremiah 1:7-8

Having entered the Catholic Church at a campus parish during my college years, I perhaps have fewer preconceptions about what it looks like to be a servant of God. The people serving the Lord around me throughout my conversion ranged from birkenstock-wearing college folks, to missionary priests and military personnel. Some were more holy than others, but all of them showed me the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ in a special way.

I think sometimes we get caught up in our own images of what we must be in order to serve God. We build up roadblocks in our heads - we're too young, too old, too imperfect, too busy. Even the prophet Jeremiah tried that line back in the day. The thing is, God doesn't fall for that. When I was struggling with whether or not I was qualified or able to go into ministry as a career, a friend shared with me a now familiar saying. God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. In fact, the best servants simply take their direction from God and God alone. As baptized members of the body of Christ, we are given access to the Great Qualifier. If God is calling, He won't leave us to fend for ourselves.

Another roadblock sometimes grows out of a desire to see the fruit of our labor. We expect sensational results if we are serving God. However, we may not all be servants whose acts bring about glorious transformation - we can't all be St. Paul or St. Peter. Pope Benedict XVI, in writing about St. Bartholomew, whose feast day it is today, said, "Despite the scarcity of information about him, St. Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds." We have to struggle into the understanding that the glory is God's alone, and happens in His time despite our best efforts now.

What holds you back from answering God with a resounding "YES!"?

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize ourselves as part of a community in Christ?

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

Jesus exists in community. Even the Trinitarian nature of God as Father, Son & Holy Spirit is communal. The implications for this are astounding as we drift further and further into individualism and isolation. We cannot exist in Christ outside of community - period. This is the fundamental answer for why we need "Church," of why we cannot exist as genuinely faithful people outside of a community of faith. Spiritual, but not religious, only gets us part of the way there. God does not exist in a vacuum for our experience alone. Our relationship with God, with Christ, depends upon how we interact with those around us. More than once we hear Jesus allude to this. "Forgive one another, love one another, proclaim the gospel to one another"...never does he say "leave one another."
It is easy to move on when we feel we are not getting something for our efforts. Sometimes, being in community, it is more about giving than receiving. (I think even Jesus mentions something about this...) Do we recognize ourselves as part of a community in Christ, or just as individual "Christians"?

Health Care Debate: Planned Parenthood vs. US Catholic Bishops

I was sifting through the Facebook updates this morning and ran across a link to an article from the Catholic News Agency about an interchange between Planned Parenthood and a spokesperson for the US Catholic Bishops. In the heat of the healthcare debate, let's just say some words have been exchanged. This was, however, one of the more thought-provoking articles on the subject of abortion within the Obama health care plan.

Planned Parenthood's statement? "“Seems that, if the U.S. Conference had its way, the national health care system would make American women second-class citizens and deny them access to benefits they currently have,” she charged."

Second class citizens? Really? Funny, even Kourtney Kardashian seems to have done her research enough to know that abortion is not actually good for women. Perhaps she should have a chat with Cecile. In fact, it seems that little of Planned Parenthood's arguments actually stood up to the facts supported by research (and not just pro-lifer research either, for those that would claim bias).

For me, the most poignant part of the article was the response of Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USSCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Calm, cool, no name-calling - everything the Church should be. In his response, he challenged Planned Parenthood's claim to be pro-choice, saying "“To get into the government-run health plan you must buy abortion coverage. That’s contrary to personal choice. Maybe she should be joining us in our effort.”"

Well, I don't see that happening any time soon, but kudos to you Richard! Apparently, the only approved choice is forcing those opposed to abortion to allow their tax dollars to pay for it.

I highly recommend reading the whole article - it was most definitely thought provoking. It's not a pro-lifer's dream statement, but it is the most cogent and reasonable compromise I've heard yet. It certainly challenges both sides. To our pro-life advocates, the challenge is to not use this bill to try to eliminate legal abortion, so that our poorest might receive healthcare. There is no question that we should continue to fight the good fight, but perhaps in another venue. To Planned Parenthood, the challenge is to demonstrate that they really do believe there is a choice and that both choices are equal and should remain choices.

And now, the ball is in Planned Parenthood's court.

full story

Morning Prayer Reflection: From Whom Do We Seek Knowledge?

His care is to seek the LORD, his Maker, to petition the Most High, To open his lips in prayer, to ask pardon for his sins. Then, if it pleases the LORD Almighty, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; He will pour forth his words of wisdom and in prayer give thanks to the LORD,Who will direct his knowledge and his counsel, as he meditates upon his mysteries. Sirach 39:6-7 (NAB)

"Being smart is not the same as being wise." A friend shared these words of her pastor with me last night as we were talking, and the profundity of the simple statement struck me as so very timely. We can get so busy seeking out knowledge on matters, we sometimes don't stop to think where that "knowledge" is originating. Are we simply seeking to seem smart, or are we really asking to gain wisdom? They are two very different things. Google and Wiki can get us facts, but the veracity of them is not always so reliable. Having worked with college students, I can't even remember the number of times we had to remind them to not just rely on the internet, but to check the source of their information.

As you pray today, consider where you get your information. In this time of political and ideological debate, to whom do we turn for counsel and wisdom? If not God, are we getting the real truth?

Doesn't God give us the same instruction for life? There is a lot of information out there, and some of it seems like it is pretty true. Do we ever stop, though, to consider the source? Do we enter into prayer when it is a matter of justice, faith and morals, to open our mind to the counsel and wisdom of God, to ask for His understanding, which far surpasses our own? In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus proclaiming the Greatest Commandment - Love God with heart, mind and soul. If we consider that love is sacrifice, maybe what he is really asking is to surrender our minds to God, along with our hearts and souls, for God's goodness to fill that instrument as well.

Morning Prayer Reflection: What Do We Stand For?

Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11 (NAB)

Oh, we've all heard it - that old adage that goes something like, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." That's just an old-fashioned platitude, though, right? I mean, in this day and age, when there are so many viewpoints and possibilities, none are better than the other, none are "more true" because then it would make someone else's ideas wrong, and that's not right, right?

What a mess we've become. We have become so fearful of offending others, especially as Catholics sometimes, that we have lost the beauty of knowing the fullness of Truth that resides in our midst. How can we begin to function as ambassadors of Christ if we don't even know what we believe among the sea of ideas and possibilities. If all ideas and beliefs are equally true, then it stands to reason that they are all equally false. That is not what Jesus Christ died on the cross for. He died for Truth with a capital T, and we squander it away for fear of offense. I am not in anyway advocating a ruthless or aggressive campaign for Truth. In fact, I'm a firm lover of St. Paul's imagery of the clanging symbol - from personal experience, no one likes a noisy gong. We must advocate in love, but that does not mean forsaking truth for comfort.

The old adage remains quite true - if we don't unite ourselves with the truth of Christ, we do fall for anything, however wise we may think ourselves. Let us hope to always stay in sync with the Holy Spirit that we might discern the Truth, speak in love and be open to new understanding as Christ wills it.

Just for Fun: BXVI & the Apple Tablet

Papa BXVI & the Apple Tablet

No, no...this isn't some new-fangled diet supplement or euphemism for our fall from grace. This picture has been circulating on the web, showing our very own Pope Benedict XVI with the Apple Tablet. So, you make the call - think PapaB is giving the Tablet two thumbs up, or is this photo as doctored as his endorsement??

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we move forward in faith?

Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,why has all this happened to us?Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fatherstold us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’For now the LORD has abandoned usand has delivered us into the power of Midian.”The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you.” Judges 6:13-14
There is no denying these are tough times. Perhaps some of us carry the tune of Gideon in his despair: "Why have you abandoned us? If you are good, Lord, why are we in this mess?" Sometimes, the dark spiral of wallowing pulls us down into a place of helplessness and feeling powerless and abandoned. As people of faith, we know the promise of Christ to never leave us, and yet, in our humanity, Christ's presence with us isn't always what we think it should be. We can begin to think if God is with us, then we face no hardships, when the truth is, in this human life, hardship happens. With God's continual presence, we can bear those hardships with a little less sorrow. Perhaps if we are in the midst of trial, we are simply being asked to re-shape our minds in the likeness of Christ, and not humanity.
So many people, young and old alike, have been struggling in this economy. We do not downplay the serious problem that face us, but perhaps part of the problem is what we have grown accustomed to thinking is "normal" or "successful." Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying, "We are called upon not to be successful but to be faithful." In these tough times, are we trying too hard to be successful, to count on our own power? The Lord tells Gideon to go with the strength he has - what he is really saying is to go in the strength of God...go with what I have given you and do what I have sent you to do. In moments of helplessness, are we trying to dig ourselves out, or do we move forward in faith, relying on the strength and wisdom of God?

Just for Fun: Sin Across America

A fun exercise by researchers from Kansas State University trying to explore the habits of people around the country has drawn a map of sin across America.

A Catholic News Service article breaks down the researchers findings based on patterns of behavior. The researchers collected census information, FBI crime reports and stats from the Dept. of Human Health and Services. How did they break it down? How else but by the seven deadly sins!

Now, of course, this is not a serious study...or is it? We certainly can't point fingers at regions of the country, but it gives us some insight into our vices...and it turns out we've got a few. You won't color me shocked at that. Though it is not a study meant to identify our greatest downfalls, it is a great starting point for a look inward. I find it quite interesting what variables they used to determine the deadly sins, and am curious what we would use to make the same measure in light of our faith.

From CNS:
Here is how the Kansas State researchers calculated the sinfulness of any one region:

-- Sloth: expenditures per capita on entertainment and recreation, such as video games and movie rentals, that tend to keep people isolated from one another as reported in the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Report."

-- Greed: comparing total per capita income with the number of people living in poverty per capita as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

-- Envy: statistics from "FBI Uniform Crime Reports" related to stealing, i.e., robbery, burglary. larceny and motor vehicle theft.

-- Wrath: more statistics from the FBI, but for rape, assault and murder.

-- Gluttony: comparing the total number of fast-food restaurants per capita as reported by the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Food Services and Drinking Places Report."

-- Lust: the number of sexually transmitted diseases per capita from data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

-- Pride: With no data that could be related, the researchers calculated pride as the aggregation of the other six sins.