Put On the Armor

October 29, 2020

Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
(Ephesians 6:10)

Reading today’s passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians reminded me of a conference I once attended on the topic of evangelization. I made note of three take-away strategies from the conference:

  • Pope Francis keeps it simple and direct. If we expect to have any luck evangelizing, he tells us “we must heal wounds and warm hearts.” We must meet people where they are and acknowledge what it is they are feeling. It must be done with love and without judgment. In so doing, we are living the faith.
  • It is not enough to simply be witnesses to our faith. We must be compelling witnesses. The passion with we live our faith, and the joy we exude because of it, will draw people in and have them envisioning what their lives could be like with God included.
  • We need to walk through doors of opportunity. We must take advantage of every opportunity to share our faith – in word and deed.

The word “evangelize” may conjure up images of TV evangelists and fire-and-brimstone speeches. If that was what I thought we were called to do, I would be hesitant, too.

Evangelization means spreading the Gospel message. It means taking the opportunity to share the loving presence of God with others. In so doing, we help provide the armor needed to face the challenges of a highly secularized world.

Simon and Jude, Apostles

October 28, 2020 – Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

Both Simon and Jude were ordinary men who were chosen by Jesus himself to teach others about God’s love and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Their lives help us to understand that even the most average people can become saints when they decide to follow Jesus.

Both of these men were known by other names during their lives. Simon was often called “the Zealot.” A zealot is a person who is strongly committed to something. In Simon’s case, he firmly believed in the importance of people following Jewish law. Once he met Jesus, his life was changed and he became convinced that the most important thing was to follow Jesus and his teachings. We believe that another reason Simon had a nickname was to keep people from confusing him with the other apostle named Simon, the one Jesus called Peter.

Jude was also known as “Jude Thaddeus.” People used this formal title so that he was not confused with Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus and handed him over to be arrested. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases and desperate situations. People often pray to Jude when they feel that there is no one else to turn to. They ask Jude to bring their problem to Jesus. Because Jude had such great faith, we know that nothing is impossible for those who believe in the Lord.

Simon and Jude traveled together to teach others about Jesus. Because of their eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles and his death and Resurrection, many people became believers and were baptized. Simon and Jude died for their faith on the same day in Beirut. Jude’s body was later returned to Rome where it was buried in a crypt under St. Peter’s Basilica.

We honor their feast day on October 28. These two saints remind us to learn all we can about Jesus and to share it with others, as they did.

Source: http://saintsresource.com/simon-and-jude-thaddeus-apostles

Heaven on Earth

October 27, 2020

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-21)

I think when we hear the phrase ‘Kingdom of God,’ our thoughts immediately turn to heaven and the gift of eternal life. Jesus is certainly preparing us for eternal life by encouraging us to live out the Gospel message.

However, I believe Jesus had more in mind than the next life. I believe that if we truly prepare as He instructs us, we are in reality creating a Kingdom of God right here on earth.

If we plant our mustard seed of faith (tiny as that may be), nurture it with loving service to others, and shine our light on it, it will grow. Our witness will be life-giving, and others will seek refuge in it (live in its branches). They in turn will plant their own seed…and on, and on.

Eternal life is definitely our goal, but joyful preparation for the Kingdom of God will help create our own heaven on earth.

Fascinating

October 26, 2020

He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!” (Luke 13:10-17)

When you read any of the Gospels, it becomes quite clear that people were fascinated by Jesus – both men and women, Jews and Gentiles, fishermen, kings, servants, and of course, the Pharisees.

The Pharisees, the most learned class of the Jews, had an odd fascination with Him. Jesus was an upstart preacher, the son of a carpenter. He did not have the pedigree to be of any interest to the Pharisees. Why did they care with whom He ate or what He did on the sabbath? Why were they watching Him so closely?

Was it that He made them question how they were living their lives? Was it because He made them feel uncomfortable?

Jesus is still fascinating after all of these years. The reasons have changed very little: He often makes us feel uncomfortable, makes it known that our lives could be so much richer, and calls us on the carpet for our sins, while offering love, forgiveness, and hope.

Fascinating stuff, don’t you think?

Joyfully Imitate Christ

October 25, 2020 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

And you became imitators of the Lord,
receiving the word with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all believers.
(1 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

Oftentimes with the Sunday readings, the first reading and the Gospel offer a common theme or goal (what) while the second reading offers practical ways to address that theme (how).

The “what” in today’s readings from Exodus and Matthew is focusing our thoughts and actions on how best to love others; that is our primary goal.

Exodus points out the need to care for orphans and widows and to be generous to poor neighbors. In the gospel, Jesus presents love of God and neighbor as the “top two” commandments.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul offers us the “how” – a practical solution to achieve these goals: Joyfully imitate Christ.

We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, making imitation of Christ possible. Others will be drawn to your joy, opening the door for them to join in.

Choose joy. Imitate Christ. Others will follow.

Fratelli Tutti

October 22, 2020

Here are a few excerpts from Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship) – a thought-provoking letter well worth reading in its entirety (link below).

“As I was writing this letter, the Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly erupted, exposing our false securities. Aside from the different ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident. For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all. Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

“The best way to dominate and gain control over people is to spread despair and discouragement, even under the guise of defending certain values. Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Their share of the truth and their values are rejected and, as a result, the life of society is impoverished and subjected to the hubris of the powerful. Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation.”

Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, “persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’ – like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed’ – like the elderly. We have grown indifferent to all kinds of wastefulness, starting with the waste of food, which is deplorable in the extreme”.

“It frequently becomes clear that, in practice, human rights are not equal for all. Respect for those rights “is the preliminary condition for a country’s social and economic development. When the dignity of the human person is respected, and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the creativity of the human personality is released through actions that further the common good”. Yet, “by closely observing our contemporary societies, we see numerous contradictions that lead us to wonder whether the equal dignity of all human beings, solemnly proclaimed seventy years ago, is truly recognized, respected, protected and promoted in every situation. In today’s world, many forms of injustice persist, fed by reductive anthropological visions and by a profit-based economic model that does not hesitate to exploit, discard and even kill human beings. While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated”. What does this tell us about the equality of rights grounded in innate human dignity?”

To read the entire encyclical: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20201003_enciclica-fratelli-tutti.html

Humility and Gentleness

October 23, 2020

I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace…   (Ephesians 4:1-6)

St. Paul included the following in his letter to the Ephesians in approximately 60 AD: “I urge you to live…with all humility and gentleness…”

Pope Francis included the following in a homily in June of 2014: “Jesus did not come to conquer men like the kings and the powerful of this world, but He came to offer love with gentleness and humility. He allows us to witness this love to our brothers and sisters in humble and gentle service.”

Over 1900 years later, God’s message remains the same.