Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Glimpse of Heaven

Many people ponder what Heaven will be.  Some wonder if their body will be better than the current version, or what "age" it will be.  Many think about who will be there - their spouse, their family members who have gone before them, or even beloved pets.  People ask the question - where is Heaven?  Is it an earthly dwelling or just hanging around in the clouds?  Where are we going and who will be there?

The answer is found in today's reading from Revelation 21:

Then I, John, 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."

Our questions about where are answered - the new Jerusalem, a holy city that comes down from Heaven from God.  What will it be like?  There will be no more death, mourning, wailing or pain.

But then the question we don't ask or really discuss is addressed.  God will dwell with the human race.  God will be with us!  Is there any reason to ask questions?  God's presence with us is sufficient.  It is more than sufficient - it is glorious beyond our understanding.  Other than this fact, is there really anything else we need to know?

"Behold, I make all things new."  Alleluia!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Prayer for A Turbulent World

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away
God never changes:
Patience obtains all things;
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

 -Saint Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Robbing My Peace

I'm a political person.  No, that doesn't mean I am necessarily interested in "politics," although most of the time I find that interesting too.  What I do enjoy is the study and discussion of government policy.  Some might say my "discussion" is actually closer to a "debate."

There are many things wrong in the world today.  Some are very serious moral and ethical issues.  I am passionate about a number of them and am frustrated with the way American society and government has chosen to deal with these issues.  (I am intentionally keeping this vague because the purpose of this post is not to discuss those issues.)  Because of my passion, sometimes I get very animated and frustrated by issues.  They can make me angry, scared and even hopeless about the world.  My feelings can be so strong as to ruin my day and spill over into my relationships, neither of which is very productive.

Recently I heard a wise woman say that it was OK to be passionate about an issue.  It might even be imperative to speak out or otherwise try to improve the situation through social or political change.  But, she said, do not become angry.  Don't let it ruin your mood or feelings.  Don't carry it around like a stone.

Don't let it rob your peace.

Since I heard these words, I have given them a lot of thought.  I do get upset over things that are horribly wrong in our society.  I think we are headed into some dangerous waters that will continue to erode our moral fabric.  I want to turn the tide, to fix the problem.  I can't do it alone and I have to face that fact.  I need to keep my joy and my peace because this world is not my home.  Jesus tells me:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
John 14:27

It's all there in black and white.  My peace comes from God and I will not give it up for any reason.  It's not the peace I get from the world.  While I am called to speak the truth and not ignore evil, I cannot fear it or let it rob me of this precious gift of peace that Jesus gives me.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Do You Love Me?

Today's Sunday reading from the Gospel of John (21:15-19) is very personal to me.  It is the time when the risen Jesus spoke to Peter, confirming Peter's love and willingness to follow Jesus.  Jesus asked for Peter's commitment three times, identical to the number of times Peter denied Jesus prior to the Crucifixion.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."

A couple of years ago I had a dream about this passage except Jesus was sitting across from me saying these words.  Previously when I heard this passage, I thought Jesus was chiding Peter, making him feel guilty for hurting and denying Him.  However, in my dream another Jesus was speaking.  He said the same words, but tenderly, with a slight smile and gentle eyes.  His eyes looked right through me.  He knew the answer to the question better than I did; in fact, He didn't need to know I love Him, He needed me to know.  That's what Peter meant when he said "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."  How can you not love someone who knows you more intimately than you know yourself and still loves you - enough to die for you?

How many times did Peter remember this conversation with Jesus?  Jesus entrusted to Peter the most weak and helpless thing Jesus had - us - His sheep.  In every hardship and frustration Peter endured in those early years of the Church, this one conversation - and the look in Jesus' eyes - must have sustained him.  And with that same look of love and tenderness, Jesus gently told Peter:

"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

These are disturbing words, but Peter knew they were delivered with love.  He had to know that Jesus would be with him through it all.  The Acts of the Apostles demonstrates that Peter was a changed man; no longer a man who would cower in fear and deny Jesus, but a man who would boldly stand before the authorities and proclaim his intent to do all that Jesus asked him to do.  Acts 5: 27-32. What changed him?

The look in Jesus' eyes: "Do you love me?"


Friday, April 8, 2016


I love jade plants.  I have a jade plant in my office that I have had since 1990.  Back then it was big and really healthy.  Over the years I have come so close to killing it.  There were times I had given it up for dead.  That jade plant just keeps coming back, maybe not as pretty and big as it used to be, but it is alive.

This little jade plant comes from a cutting on a big bush in California.  I cut a little piece off and let it dry out for a couple of days - no water.  I don't know too many plants that can survive being cut without water.  Jade plants can.  Just stick them in some good soil and wait.  This is my first time trying this and I'm amazed that this little plant is growing new leaves!

Ever know someone who is like a jade plant?  It's someone who can be cut, starved, mistreated and generally neglected, but still emerge intact.  He might be scarred or damaged, but he is alive and growing.

God will not give me more than I can endure.  Although I may be bruised, Jesus did not come to break me.  This was the message of Isaiah 42:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him,
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street; 
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

I don't want to be a bruised reed or a dimly burning wick.  It scares me that God might test me.  I have to pray.  Hold on.  Be a jade.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mother Angelica - Who Was She?

By now most people have heard that Mother Mary Angelica, foundress of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), died on Easter Sunday at the age of 92.  How appropriate that she finally went home to the Lord on Resurrection Day!

I have great admiration for Mother Angelica, but it wasn't always that way.  I was a young adult of the 1980's, when relativity was born and when we looked on traditional Catholic values as "out of touch" or irrelevant to our modern lives.  I first became aware of Mother Angelica during the 1980s when I was still a teen.  I'm not sure how I found out about her, but I know my immediate impressions certainly were not positive ones.

When I finally decided to take a look at EWTN, I managed to catch Mother in one of her "hellfire" moods.  Dressed in a full black habit with a wimple on her head, she reminded me of Sister Francis Xavier from grade school (she was pretty stern too).  Aha, I thought - she's exactly as I heard - a real kook!

But, years later, I discovered there were two sides to Mother Angelica.  She struggled with anger and "crabbiness" (as she often admitted), but her insistence on the application of doctrine and dogma of the Church was unwavering and she suffered no fools who could not see that.  Her anger was righteous.

Mother's other side was different.  When she spoke about Jesus her tone softened and the great love she had for Him poured from her.  She was like the quintessential grandmother who begged us to come home because Jesus was waiting with boundless love and mercy.  In a gentle and tender voice she assured us that Jesus loves us.  I'm sorry I missed that the first time I saw her.

It is only now at her passing that the stories of her remarkable life and great faith are pouring forth.  People are stepping out to talk about the impact she had in their lives.  Even the Wall Street Journal gave her a laudable tribute!

There is so much more that could be said about this enigmatic woman and her impact on the New Evangelization.  I know as I have grown older and seen more of the archive of her shows, I have come to appreciate both sides of Mother Angelica.  I know, like Archbishop Fulton Sheen, her voice will continue to reverberate over the airwaves.

Eternal rest grant unto her and may perpetual light shine upon her.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Morning by Morning New Mercies I See

Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

This has to be my favorite Protestant hymn (although there are so many beautiful ones!), but my favorite line goes with today's feast of Divine Mercy.  Yes, every morning I see new mercy from Jesus, but sometimes I need to focus my eyes and see it.  

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and a recent addition to the Catholic Sunday feasts.  It was declared by St. Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Faustina in 2000.  Sister Faustina Kowalska was a Polish visionary who lived in the 1930s and wrote a diary of her visions and revelations from Jesus Christ, who appeared to her with rays extending from His Sacred Heart (see below).  Click here for more information about the feast, the Divine Mercy chaplet and the devotions specific to Divine Mercy.

When this feast was first declared, I remembered thinking how inconvenient that it was placed on the Sunday after Easter.  At my parish, that was traditionally the day we had First Communion.  However, Jesus asked that the feast be celebrated on this day.  Fourteen times in her visions, Jesus asked St. Faustina for a celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday on the octave of Easter.  In addition, in the very earliest liturgical documents of the Church, The Apostolic Constitutions, the apostle Thomas asked "after eight days let there be another feast observed with honor, the eighth day itself on which He gave me, Thomas, who was hard of belief, full assurance, by showing me the print of His nails, and the wound in His side by the spear." 

Oh, now that makes sense!

The Lord's mercy is boundless and an essential component of our salvation.  His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136).  But it wasn't just a "one shot deal".  That is abundantly clear today.  Wasn't it enough that Jesus came to us as a man, died a humiliating and unjust death and then rose again?  Evidently not.  Just one week after the glorious Resurrection Day, we see Thomas, doubting it.  Jesus was so patient, so merciful!  Thomas' experience was so personal, because Jesus loves each of us and His Mercy extends to each us, just as we are.  Just reach out like Thomas and touch Him.  His mercy is new every day.