• The world today really needs the hope that only Easter brings. I do not know about you, but I often feel overwhelmed by the daily media stories of all the pain experienced throughout our world. The cycle of violence never seems to subside. There is still unrest in Iraq and other places like Syria where thousands of people have been killed and many are living in wretched circumstances in refugee camps and those still in Syria live in constant danger. People are dying of hunger in the Sudan and in many other countries. Many cannot find work to support their families.

    Most of us can name other situations. Violence, hatred and revenge are all around us. Suffering runs rampant, and mercy and compassion seem to be scarce commodities these days. Many cry out and ask where God is in all of this.

    I think that part of the problem starts on a personal level. If we were reconciled with each other and had right relationships, there would be less violence in our families and in the world. There would be more peace.

    As Christians our faith in the Resurrection, which we celebrate during Holy Week, reminds us that good can and does come out of suffering and that the only way to conquer sin is to love, even our enemies. Jesus died out of love for us and through His suffering came His Resurrection. By His Cross and Resurrection He set us free.

    As this season of Lent comes to a close, it would be good to reflect on our own attitudes. Do we feel that people are justified in wanting to punish hatred with more violence? What are our thoughts about the death penalty (which is what Jesus died under)? Do we ever pray for the conversion of our enemies, even terrorists and those people in our lives that have hurt us or do we think they should get what we judge they deserve? On the other hand, do we ask others for forgiveness?

    As Christians who believe in the Resurrection, we must strive to be models of love and hope. Our good works of Lent must continue throughout the rest of the year. We have a mission to make Christ known by our love. We must express our belief that, even in this gloomy, dark time of pain and suffering at home and around the world, God will not abandon us — just like He did not abandon His Son, Jesus, even though it may have looked that way at first. Our world needs this Easter message. Go out and proclaim it to all in your world.

    And if current events make it hard for you to believe that God is somehow in all of this, ask God to deepen your faith and to help you to remember times when He brought you out of difficulties in your life or the life of someone you know. Easter tells us that God never leaves us in our pain and brings good out of evil. We must proclaim that, in spite of the situation of our world, God is with us and that gives us hope.

    Posted on April 15, 2014, to:

  • There are some common prayers that I pray by heart, such as the Hail Mary, the Our Father and the Glory Be. They come to my mind automatically because I have prayed them so many times and I have them memorized. This is probably true for most Catholics.

    Recently, at Mass we heard the Gospel account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer to His disciples and other followers. Because I usually prepare for the liturgy by praying the daily Scripture readings, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” really jumped out at me.

    The last part of the sentence is something to check ourselves on. For some of us these words merely flow off our tongues, and we often don’t think about what we are saying. Can we forgive those who have hurt us or do we hold grudges or have resentments against others?

    Lent is a good time to examine ourselves and reflect on those people in our lives who may be in that category.

    Really forgiving someone who has betrayed us or hurt us in any way is not easy, but this is a big part of being a follower of Jesus, and we cannot take it lightly. To love is to forgive and have right relationships with everyone who touches our lives. We all know people (maybe ourselves) who hold deep resentments or hurts that need God’s healing. Sometimes people nurse their grudges and anger toward someone else for years. Some might not even remember what originally happened to cause the problem.

    Every time we pray the Our Father we are asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. He didn’t say to forgive only those who ask for pardon, but everyone. At times we must initiate the conversation and take the first step toward reconciliation. To ask for pardon or to say, “I forgive you,” and really mean it, is difficult. Often our pride gets in the way or we fear the reaction of the other person. Even so, the act of being reconciled with another can free us.

    Reconciliation is needed, not only in our individual lives, but also in our countries, churches and other organizations. There can be no lasting peace unless people are willing to ask for and to give forgiveness.

    I truly believe that if we can make right our individual relationships that there will be less war and violence in our world. God’s forgiveness for us will be measured by how we offer forgiveness in our lives. The next time you pray the Our Father slow down and think about what you are really saying. As followers of Christ we must take those words seriously.

     

    Posted on March 25, 2014, to:

  • My first thought when I think of the word hunger is to get something to eat. Food and hunger just seem to go together. It is true we have all been hungry for food at some time or another but eating does not satisfy all our hungers. We also have spiritual hungers that need to be satisfied if we are to become mature adults.

    In the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. Jesus was not talking about food but about satisfying the spiritual hungers or desires that every human being experiences in life.

    One deep spiritual hunger or desire of every person is to believe that life is meaningful and has a purpose. It is that deep longing inside that cannot be fully satisfied with possessions or superficial relationships. How sad for those whose need for meaning in their lives is never met, who never discover God’s love or who try to find happiness by acquiring more and more money or “things.” Even sadder are those who think life ends at death, or the ones who despair and end their lives because they believe there is nothing to live for.

    Another hunger we have is for community. None of us is meant to be alone. We need the help of others to become the person God wants us to be. Human growth and maturity happen in an atmosphere of belonging and acceptance. We also see this in the Church. We live our Christianity within the context of community. Christians belong to the community we call Church. When we are baptized, we are baptized into the Body of Christ. A person’s faith cannot grow without the support of other believers. That is why the Church does not baptize infants when the parents are not practicing Catholics because there would be no Christian community to nurture the child’s faith.

    Every person also hungers to be listened to and really heard. When someone really hears what we say and takes us seriously we are affirmed. When we sense we are not heard we can feel discounted or that our words and even ourselves do not matter. On the other side, we, too, must learn how to be good listeners so we can help satisfy this hunger in others. It is a skill that is sorely needed in our world today and there are unfortunately too few people who really know how to listen. As a result, many will pay for this service.

    Prayer also can help alleviate this hunger to be listened to. Christians believe in a personal God who is involved in each person’s life. We believe God cares about each of us individually. He listens to us and knows the desires of our hearts.

    Each of us also longs to be appreciated and loved. Almost every day we see what happens when people have not experienced real love in their lives. Often they are the ones who get into trouble or cause harm to others. Many have difficulty loving others because they never experienced love in their own lives. Often those deprived of love cease to love themselves and suffer from low self-esteem.

    As Christians who are called to love, we have the responsibility to help satisfy this deep hunger that we all share. Christ revealed God’s love and gave us that same mission. The world should be a more loving place because of the way Christians live. A helpful daily exercise is to ask yourself if there was a little more love in the world that day because of you.

    Lastly, we hunger for acceptance. It is wonderful to be accepted for who we are, not for what we do. We all need to matter and be loved by someone. Those who are not ever accepted by others suffer a great deal. Maybe you have had the experience of not being invited to a school party or to an office function or know others who seem alone and always on the fringe. Perhaps you could be more mindful of these people and think about including them in your social life.

    I invite you to reflect on your greatest hunger right now and ask the Lord to satisfy it.

    Posted on June 26, 2013, to:

  • Recently I was in a faith-sharing group where the participants were asked to share our most important values. Have you ever been asked to articulate your deepest values? It is something to think about.

    There is an old saying that we should “put your money where your mouth is.” Another one tells us to “practice what we preach.” Often we say we value certain things, but in reality our actions say otherwise. I remember a retreat director saying one time that you can usually tell what you really value by how you spend your money and the bulk of your time.

    An example is that many people claim to value prayer but they are so busy and don’t have enough time. On the other hand, when the weekend rolls around or they have a day off, they often don’t spend any more time with the Lord than when they are working or studying.

    This holds true for persons who say they value friendship or family and yet rarely spend a few hours of quality time with those they love. I know a married deacon who was responsible for the Family Life Committee of a particular parish where I ministered. He and his wife spent so much time doing things in the parish that he was rarely home with his children. Consequently, several of them ended up in trouble and with serious problems from lack of parental attention. If you asked him, he would claim to be a family man, but his behavior proved otherwise.

    It is so easy to say we have certain values but our lives don’t always reflect them. We can say our faith and the Holy Eucharist are important to us and yet go on a vacation with friends and miss Mass because we didn’t want to inconvenience them.

    Another example is to call good health a value, but skip meals, eat poorly and get little exercise. Recently, I came to the conclusion that if exercise really is a value in my life, I wouldn’t avoid it so much, especially because it helps people with Parkinson’s disease.

    You can also discover your values by regularly reflecting on your daily life. I like to take a little time each day to review how I lived the last 24 hours. I ask myself questions about what I did or did not do, and how I spent my time and energy. Some of the following questions may help you in your own reflection:

    Do I value friendship and relationships? Look at your life. Who are your true friends? Do you connect with them frequently? Will they stick by you in the good times and the bad? Are there people for whom you would do the same?

    Do I value my faith? When did you last spend regular time with Jesus in prayer or go on a retreat?

    Is family a value for me? When is the last time you really spent quality time with your family or wrote someone far away a letter or made a call?

    The list goes on and on. What we really value in our lives must be translated into action.

    It is in reflecting upon our actions and where we spend our time and energy, that we  discover what we really value. You might be surprised.

    Posted on May 21, 2013, to:

  • There are literally hundreds of books written on prayer and how to pray. Lots of people spend more time reading and buying the latest books about prayer than actually praying. Why do you suppose that is? The people buying these books obviously see prayer as a value but apparently find it difficult.

    Recently, I received an insight on this matter of prayer and why we value it, while at same time we seem to avoid it. A reason could be that many of us still operate out of the Greek understanding that the human person is made up of a body and a soul. We tend to divide our lives into two categories, spiritual life and our normal life. We tend to see our spiritual life as separate from our everyday life and fail to integrate them. We “work on” our prayer life as if it were divorced from the rest of our lives.

    For too many people prayer is often seen as an obligation or “putting in our time” with God? Imagine a woman who gives her husband 15 minutes a day of her time and spends a lot of it complaining or thinking of all she has to do. If this is the only time they give each other, their relationship would be pretty shallow and unfulfilled.

    I think this often happens in our relationship with God. We try to carve out some time for Him, successfully or unsuccessfully, during our day and then often do not think about God again until we are in church or at our next prayer period.

    Prayer is meant to nourish our relationship with God and not be limited to a time or place. Think of how you nurture your other significant relationships. One thing you probably don’t do is read to them words already prepared.

    To develop a good relationship with someone we must spend time with that person and share about our lives, our joy and pain, our hopes and dreams. We talk about what is happening in each one’s life and our thoughts of that other person are not limited to our physical presence.

    Why should our relationship with God be that much different? Why do we try all kinds of prayer methods? Somehow we often look at the saints and measure our prayer by theirs. We fail to recognize that much of their prayer was conversation with God. They made God the center of their lives. Many times our prayer becomes monotonous or boring so we give up. It doesn’t have to be that way. Set a realistic amount of time for prayer each day and use it to share with God the ordinariness of our lives, including our thoughts and feelings. It is our time to be honest with God. God is always with us.

    Posted on February 19, 2013, to: