Teens and Tweens Too

Much of the conversation on our blog so far has been propelled by and geared toward adults and young adults. But perhaps you’re the sibling, parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent of a teen and are looking to guide their journey to Christ! Someone recently shared these YouTube videos from Life Teen, and I wanted to pass them along because they show the excitement of committing to a life in Christ!

Contact your parish youth ministry to get involved. If you don’t currently belong to a parish, check out our Office of Youth Ministry website at: http://www.adw.org/youth/yth_just.asp.

 Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 29 – The Winning Team.

Reason # 29 – The Winning Team – OK, I’ll admit it. I cheated. I looked at the end of the book and read the end of the story. Guess what I found?  Jesus wins! It’s right there in final pages, in the Book of Revelation:

The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life.  The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,  coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Do you get the Picture? Jesus wins, the devil and the world and wicked loose. And Jesus unites himself to his Bride (the Church) forever. Now here’s the point, Get on the winning team!. If you could go to the race track today with tomorrow’s newspaper, you’d be  a fool to bet on any other horse that the one announced as the winner in tomorrow’s newspaper. So here we are. We have tomorrow’s newspaper today. It says Jesus wins. Well then, why bet on the World or the Devil? Choose Jesus, unite yourself with his Bride the Church. The Scriptures are clear, Jesus and the Bride are the winning team. But make sure your name is in the book! You can sign up today at any Catholic Parish. Just knock on the door and say, “Sign me up for the Christian Jubilee! Write my name on the roll.” If you had once signed up but your name’s been blotted out, just go to the nearest Catholic Church and ask for the location of the confessional. So here it is, Jesus and his Church, the Bride are the winning team, the Devil and World are big time losers. Who you gonna choose?

Pondering Persecution

In this week just before Holy Week we are reading from the 8th Chapter of John’s Gospel wherein Jesus enters into increasingly severe conflict with the temple leaders in Jerusalem. The conflict will ultimately end with Jesus death which we celebrate a week from this Friday.

I wonder if most Catholics today are ready for persecution. It probably doesn’t take a prophet to realize that, as the world around us goes increasingly insane and strays from God’s ways, we are more and more likely to experience persecution. The basic path seems to be this:

  1. Biblically Based moral vision is set aside either as old fashioned or as merely “personal opinion.”  
  2. Tolerance is exulted as the only real virtue.
  3. Insist that all behavior (except perceived intolerance) is to be tolerated.
  4. Accuse anyone who questions newly sanctioned behaviors of being intolerant and thus worthy of increasing punishment. Call them names such as intolerant, reactionary, rigid, unkind, mean, hateful, etc. Generally incite personal dislike of those who hold to traditional biblical morality through such labeling.
  5. Begin the process calling all perceived intolerance “hate crimes”  and start exacting punishment. Start by removing tax exempt status, begin permitting lawsuits for failing to observe all forms of tolerance (Except tolerance of intolerance).  
  6. Exact more punitive measures such as jail time for those guilty of  so-called “hate crime” or intolerance. Declare such people as dangerous since their “intolerance” may cause violence and thus call for their imprisonment.

As the world gets crazier such a process (which is already far along) does not seem so far-fetched. In Canada there are already clergy on trial for the “hate-crime” of opposing so-called “Gay marriage.” You can read more of that  HERE  and HERE. But there are several things to ponder about persecution:

  1. Persecution is normative for the Christian. Jesus exemplifies this in his own life and also teaches: If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:19ff)
  2. Hence, the fact that we are persecuted does not mean we have done anything wrong.  – Too many Christians are swayed by the anger of others into thinking that they have done or said something wrong or inappropriate. While not every tactic we might use is always appropriate, our message, even if delivered with appropriate means will often anger the world. Again, this DOES NOT mean we have done anything wrong.
  3. Refuse to accept and internalize the labels. Just because some one calls you intolerant does not mean that you are. Further we should not be required to tolerate everything. Hence it is appropriate to strongly oppose, to refused to tolerate that which we consider wrong.
  4. Courage– Preaching and living the faith in a world gone increasingly mad will require guts and persistence. We must re-examine our intense need to be liked by everyone and approved by all and prefer nothing to God and his truth.

So, as we see Jesus in the Gospels of this week go into the fray for our sakes, we must admire his courage and pray for similar strength and virtue. Things may get difficult in the years ahead. But listen again to Jesus: In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”  (John 16:33).

I preach on this topic at this morning’s Mass. If you’d like to hear more you can listen here: Pondering Persecution (17 Minutes)

Here too is a video clip of John 8 that depicts the increasing opposition that was mounting against Jesus. It is from the Movie The Gospel of John.

Post-Abortion Healing

Among those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith are some who feel in some way that the Church has rejected them or disapproves of something they have done or are doing. Of those who feel this way are some who have struggled with abortion, one of the great moral issues of our day. Without doubt or compromise the Church prophetically announces that abortion is a great evil since it is the taking of innocent human life. And yet we in the Church also announce God’s mercy and compassion for all who have struggled with abortion (or any sin) and fallen. As Pope John Paul wrote in 1995 to those who have had or participated in abortion: The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. (Evangelium Vitae, 99).  

 If you are a woman, or a man, who, in the aftermath of abortion, has struggled with guilt or shame. If you have a fear of rejection and so have stayed away from the Church please understand this: God has never failed to love you and neither have we. Despite the Church’s prophetic stand against abortion, we are just as adamant about mercy and forgiveness. It is the heart of the Church’s ministry to celebrate God’s healing and forgiveness. It has been my privilege as a priest to reconcile many women and men who have, at some point in the past, chosen abortion. God is rich in mercy and it is a great joy to announce, celebrate and confer that mercy.

Please know that there are priests and laity who stand ready to assist you in you in the possible and likely struggles that ensue after an abortion. Understanding, mercy and healing are offered in the Church, not only at the parish level and in confession but also through a ministry known as Project Rachel. It is a healing ministry to  women and some men as well who deal with the many hurts that often emerge after an abortion. Sometimes these feelings occur immediately after the abortion, sometimes years later. Project Rachel Ministry makes referrals for one-on-one meetings with a priest especially sensitive to the needs of someone healing from abortion decisions, and also makes referrals to professional counselors, offers days of prayer and healing, and a support group. The next day of prayer and healing in English is Saturday, June 27, and the next day of prayer and healing in Spanish is Saturday, May 30. Know that you are not alone and there is healing for your soul. Project Rachel takes its name from a passage in scripture in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 31:15 In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children,she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the LORD: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward…There is hope for your future.

Here is the essential thought to end this post with: If you have had an abortion, the Lord loves you and so do we in the Church. If you wish to seek counseling and help, there are many ready to help you from the parish priest to trained experts and kindred souls in Project Rachel. Don’t stay away because you think you’re rejected. You are loved and your presence and gifts in the Church are needed.

Locally in Washington the phone number for Project Rachel is 301-982-2008 or 202-269-4673. The Website is here Project Rachel

The following video depicts the journeys of a few women. This is their own testimony. It may not be your exact experience, but just so you know that others have made the journey too.

Well?

This video is a little hokey, in a kind of charming way. But it gets some of the truths out about really old time religion! Enjoy this rather quirky little remake of an old classic.  😉

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 28 – The Doctor is In

Reason # 28 – The Doctor is in – Alright, I got some news for you.  It’s difficult news, but I’m sure you can take it ! Here it is: your condition is grave, so is mine.  We’ve got some serious stuff wrong with us!  You might say we’ve got a few issues!  Yes, I’ve  got your spiritual “medical chart” and mine open and I’m looking at the test results and the numbers don’t look good.  We’ve tested positive for a number of things: It says we can be dishonest, egotistical, undisciplined, weak, immature, arrogant, self-centered, pompous, insincere, unchaste, grasping, judgmental, inpatient, and shallow.  It looks like we’ve tested positive for being inconsistent, unfaithful, immoral, ungrateful, disobedient, selfish, lukewarm, slothful, unloving, uncommitted, and just plain sinful.  Further tests indicate the presence of fear, indifference, contempt, impurity, hatred, laziness, cowardice, and anger.  Likewise, greed, jealousy, revenge fullness, disobedience, hardheartedness, pride, envy, stinginess, selfishness, pettiness, spite, self-indulgence, lust, careless neglect, and prejudice. Our “spiritual” medical history indicates that we have sinned against justice, modesty, purity, and the truth. We have committed sins against the human person, the children and the young, innocent and the trusting, the frail and elderly, the unborn in infants, weak and powerless, immigrants and strangers, and those who are disadvantaged.   A set of further test results indicates that we have failed to give witness to Christ, we have failed to join our will to God or give good example to others.  We have failed to seek God above all things, to act justly you show mercy, and to repent of our sins.  We’ve failed to obey the commandments and curb our earthly desires.  We have failed to lead a holy life and to speak the truth. We have failed to pray for others and assist those in need;  neither have we consoled the grieving.

Well, you can see that we’re kind of in bad shape. You might say that I’m exaggerating but I suspect, if you’re honest, that you like me have committed many of These sins if not most of them.  Without a lot of grace and mercy we are in very bad shape!  Indeed, I will say he simply that we are doomed!

But here’s the good news: the doctor is in! Jesus! Likewise, the doctor has a cure:

  1. Daily Prayer
  2. Daily reading of scripture
  3. Holy Communion EVERY Sunday
  4. Frequent Confession, at least 4 times a year, more if mortal sin is a problem!
  5. Frequent doses of the Catechism, the lives of the saints and devotions such as the rosary, and novenas.
  6. Good company and custody of the eyes and ears.

I hope you can see the connection to coming home. We need help; we’ve got stuff going on that will kill us eternally. But Jesus has a hospital: the Church, and Medicine: the Sacraments. Likewise there is spiritual “medical” advice available, the Word of God, sermons, the teachings of the Church and the presence of encouraging doctors and nurses such as the priests, religious, and fellow Catholics.  Whether you and  like to  admit it or not we need regular check-ups and serious medicine. And Jesus is guiding his Church to give skillful advice and distribute powerful medicine. Do you think of the sacraments that way? Many simply think of them as rituals but the truth is they are powerful medicine. I’m a witness. After twenty-five years of seeing the doctor, Jesus and letting him minister to me through Sacraments, the Word and his Church a wonderful change has come over me. I’m not what I want to be but I’m not what I used to be.

Come on home. The doctor is in and you know you need him! Reach out for him what ever your struggles.  He’s waiting to minister to you especially in the liturgy and the sacraments. You can’t do it alone. Join us every Sunday at the “holy hospital”, the Church. The Doctor is in!

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

In the Gospel for today’s Mass (B Cycle) we hear Jesus at prayer as he ponders the difficult and painful days just ahead of him. It is now the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified, that is to say, be crucified. Jesus saw it as his glory, that he give his life for us and show the world that he loves the Father. And yet he knows he is heading for a painful time.

There are some difficult truths evident in this Gospel that, if we can accept them will set us free. One of the sources of stress for us in life is that we often have unrealistic expectations of what this life should be. A more ancient description of life describes it as a “valley of tears” and teaches us to long for heaven. Today however, with a higher standard of living, most of us have come to expect that life should be comfortable and happy. When it is not we get resentful and anxious. But the truth is that we are not in paradise and sorrows and difficulties are a frequent part of life. Simply accepting this fact is a great source of peace.

In the homily today I explored, “Five Hard Truths that Will Set You Free.” The five truths are not original to me. I first heard them from the Franciscan Theologian Richard Rohr. Here they are:

  1. Life is hard
  2. Your life is not about you
  3. You are not in control
  4. You are not that important
  5. You are going to die.

I took these principles and related them to Jesus’ words in the Gospel today. As I have said, they are hard sayings but, if you are willing to accept them they are a source of peace since they help us gain a more humble perspective on life. That done, our egos are less wounded by the disappointments and sorrows of life.

If you care to listen to the Homily it is here: Five Hard Truths that Will Set You Free (32 Minutes)

At the end of the Homily I reference an old Gospel Hymn “Beams of Heaven.” If you’d like to hear it, then it is here below in the video. The refrain is: I do not know how long ’twill be, nor what the future holds for me. But this I know, If Jesus leads me, I shall get home some day!

A Warning to the Church – Distinguished or Dead!

Here’s another Fr. Robert Barron Video where he reviews a recent survey on religion and some of the basic trends. The first half  describes the largest growing category of religious observance: “None.” If this is you or someone you know there are important insights.

The second half of the video however contains a kind of warning for the Church. Many of the Mainline Protestant denominations have lost dramatic numbers. Why? In large part because they are no longer distinguished from the world around them. Once the distinctiveness of the church experience is lost, its adherents begin to say, “Why bother going since I can get the same things from the world?”  Here then is the warning for us: We have been called out of the world, to be in sharp distinction to it values and priorities. Once we lose this distinctiveness we begin to loose numbers, parishes and schools close, and we shrink away. Dinstinguish or die! We’re supposed to be salt and light! So pass the salt and turn on the lights.