Tag Archives: christ

ALL IN

all-in

“ALL IN”

This has become the rallying cry for the Cleveland Cavaliers as we have advanced through the playoffs and are now headed to the NBA Finals after an exciting four game sweep against the Atlanta Hawks. In those two little words, the team, the fans, and the city itself are daring to hope for the championship that we have never managed to win, while acknowledging exactly what it will take for us to finally make it all the way.

Cleveland has a lot of almost championships. The Indians have almost made it several times. The Browns have almost made it to the playoffs on many occasions as well. And the Cavs, well the Cavs hold perhaps the most bittersweet memories of almost winning for Cleveland.   After several years of being so close, the team, the fans, and the whole northeast Ohio region was angered after the highly publicized decision of LeBron James to leave Cleveland for Miami. The years that followed showed just how much our team had relied on LeBron as we failed to play even close to the level of basketball we had been playing with him.

After last season ended, LeBron announced he was coming home to Cleveland. The announcement was met with a cautious optimism. While the possibility of a championship was exciting, every loss, every “slump” and every injury brought back doubts that this may not be THE YEAR. That maybe, like years before, we just didn’t have what it takes to go all the way. When the playoffs became a reality, it was clear that everyone needed to move past their doubts, beyond what happened in previous years, and support the team fully. The team, the fans, the city itself needed to be ALL IN to make this championship dream a reality.

To be ALL IN playing the game or supporting your basketball team is great. Sports have a way of uniting people even under trying circumstances and a long awaited win would certainly be exciting and uplifting for the whole region. But in the end, it’s still just a game. When it’s all said and done, win or lose, it’s just basketball.

What things in our lives do we really give our all? Sports? Work? Money?   Family & Friends?

If the players, the fans, the whole of northeast Ohio can go ALL IN to support a basketball team, how much more willing should we be to go ALL IN for the things that are most important in our lives? To go ALL IN for the One Thing that is more important than any of it?

Basketball will come to an end. Players will come and go. We may be left with the memory of a championship or of another almost. And while it is nice to be a part of the excitement, to be ALL IN for the Cavs, we are called to something much greater.

We are called to be ALL IN for the One who gave us life, who forgives us time and time again, who fills us with joy and peace that cannot be found anywhere else, and who loves us with a love so deep that He gave His Son for us. To give to the Lord everything that we have without doubts, without reservations, without fear. We are called to trust fully in His promises and to give our ALL to God. He promises far more than a basketball championship. He promises love beyond compare, forgiveness of our sins, a joy that cannot be found anywhere else. He promises eternal life! And that is something definitely worth giving our ALL for.

Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart (Proverbs 3:5)

I will give thanks to the Lord with ALL my heart (Psalm 9:1)

You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul, and with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength (Mark 12:30)

An Eye for an Eye?

desert-613003_640Violence and War. These are not new concepts. Ever since the fall of man, these have followed us. What began with Cain and Abel has followed humanity through centuries upon centuries of death and destruction.   By looking back at history we can see the negative effects of war. The violence, the death, the families and nations torn apart. And yet, the pattern continues still today.

Why?

As human beings, why do we continue along this path? Is it blind oblivion to the pain that such violence causes? Is it ignorance of past grievances? Is it a complete lack of any sort of moral conscience? Perhaps these things may contribute to violent behavior. But I believe at the heart of this is a dark desire for revenge.

A radical branch of religious extremists feels wronged and threatened by the way of life in other civilizations. Not content to let this be, they seek a twisted form of revenge carried out in brutal acts against humanity.

And leaders of nations, appalled by such acts of brutality, vow revenge on the terrorists who carried them out to begin with. In the wake of the recent barbaric killing of a Jordanian pilot by ISIS, a distraught Jordanian politician shouted in an interview “Let’s use the same methods as them! Let’s kill their children! Let’s kill their women!”

And so the cycle continues. Following the killing of the pilot, two al-Qaida prisoners on death row in Jordan were executed for their crimes. But will this help? More than likely the terrorist groups will only seek revenge yet again for the executions of these prisoners. And so it continues on and on.

Many in the world seem content to live by “an eye for an eye.” And how does this help anyone? By murdering someone who has murdered others, by vowing death on the families of those who brought death to others, are we getting any closer to peace? Or are we only falling deeper and deeper into the cycle of violence and war.

There is only one way to break this cycle.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

Instead of living “an eye for an eye” we need to learn to turn the other cheek. Not that we are to turn the other way and ignore the violent acts in our world. Not that we should allow murderers or terrorists to simply go about their lives free of any consequences. No. What our Lord is telling us in these words is that rather than seeking revenge, we need to seek love. Love of the innocent, love of the needy, love of our neighbor, and even love of our enemies.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44)

flower-62291_640Love has the power to break the cycle of war. If our end goal is love and peace then we have no room for revenge. We must learn to work to defeat violence and war by working towards love. In our imperfect world, sometimes wars happen. The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges these circumstances:

“Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death. (CCC 2306)

“All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.” (CCC 2308)

We live in a world of sin. People do terrible things to one another in acts of anger and revenge. By halting acts of aggression through a desire to spread love and peace rather than the desire to bring revenge on others, we can end this cycle. It is a monumental task; one that us mere humans could never accomplish on our own. But we live in the knowledge and hope of Christ. We know that violence, death, war, destruction and sin do not win.   Christ has conquered sin and death! Through Him, we can know peace.

Let us pray that leaders around the world will come together in an effort to bring about true peace and not to seek revenge. That they may work together to protect and preserve life in the name of love. And that the Holy Spirit might enter into the hearts of us all to lead us away from the darkness of anger and revenge and towards the light of the peace and love of Jesus Christ.sunrise-71287_640

Peace in the New Year

bay-381241_640New Year’s Eve.  Time for another resolution to carry into 2015.

Last year I chose to focus on one word for a New Year’s Resolution.  Believe.

Throughout the year I reminded myself over and over again to believe.  Not just in the existence of God but in His promises, His love, His mercy, His grace, His perfect plan.  To fully believe in all that we have been given through Him and to let that belief overcome any doubts or fears.  It truly helped me throughout the year and is something I will continue to meditate on in the coming years.

For 2015, I again decided to choose one word to focus on throughout the coming year.

Peace.

In the coming year I resolve to allow the peace of Christ to work within my soul.  To empty myself of anxieties, troubles, fears, and be filled with His peace, true peace.  To let that peace extend from me to touch my family and friends and all those around me.  This year I pray that the peace of the Lord will be within me and work through me so that others may see and know His peace.

Peace is not some abstract impossibility.  The peace of Christ is very real and very possible.  I pray that in the coming year people around the world will open up their hearts and souls to the wondrous peace of Christ.  Happy New Year!

“Overcoming evil with weapons of love becomes the way in which each person can contribute to the peace of all. Christians and believers of different religions are called to walk this path, together with those who accept the universal moral law.

Dear brothers and sisters, promoting peace in the world is our common mission!

May the Virgin Mary help us to fulfill the words of the Lord: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Mt 5: 9).

Happy New Year to everyone! Praised be Jesus Christ!”

(Homily of Saint John Paul II on the 38th World Day of Peace
Saturday, 1 January 2005)

Advent: Calm in the Chaos

nativity-447767_640Advent.  A time of waiting and preparation, both for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and for His glorious return.  Sometimes we might feel as though there is too much going on in our lives to truly focus on the Advent season.  But the season of Advent can be celebrated in our hearts in times of quiet prayer and pondering as well as in the midst of hectic preparations.

In the time leading up to the birth of our Lord, Mary and Joseph had a lot going on. The angel Gabriel comes and delivers a most wonderful message to the Blessed Mother and she joyfully accepts the will of the Father, even without knowing exactly what may be involved.  Then an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph to assure him that what Mary said was true.  He, too, accepts the will of the Father and takes Mary into his home.  Suddenly their lives were forever changed.  They had been two seemingly ordinary people preparing to be married.  And now they were married and expecting a child.  Not just any child, but the Son of God! The child they were preparing to welcome into the world would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

In what I can only imagine was a whirlwind of wonder and joy at the events that were transpiring I am sure that there were also some hectic moments.  Mary went to visit Elizabeth for several months.  They had the usual preparations for expecting a baby.  And rather than staying close to home while waiting for the Christ Child to be born, they had to go and journey to Bethlehem for the census.  Can you imagine being in Mary’s position?  Leaving family and friends and the comfort of the home you have likely been preparing for months for the arrival of a baby, to travel while quite pregnant would be stressful for most of us.  And what about Joseph?  He loved Mary dearly and I am sure he was concerned for his new bride with all the commotion going on.  I can imagine him frantically trying to find a place for them to rest before finding the stable.  I think it is fair to say that most of us would be overwhelmed by it all.

Was Mary overwhelmed?  Were Mary and Joseph stressed out and frantic as their plans kept changing?  Mary and Joseph were people just like you and me.  They had plenty on their plates!  And in their time of waiting, they couldn’t constantly sit back in quiet solitude and contemplate the events that were going to transpire.  They had to continue on in their preparations, deal with changing plans and forge ahead with their lives.  They couldn’t escape the whirlwind of life.

What they could do was make time for the Lord in the midst of it all.  They could trust in His Almighty plan for them, even when things seemed chaotic and confusing.  They could lean on His promises and ponder in their hearts the glorious mystery they had been called to live out.  They could proclaim His goodness even if it didn’t all make sense to them right away.

As we make our way through this Advent season we journey in our hearts alongside Mary and Joseph.  The world around us is hectic.  When everywhere we turn there is commotion and chaos, we can still find the peace of Advent within us.   While we wait for Christmas to come there are things to be done!  Gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, decorations to put up, family get-togethers to plan and attend.  Even if we manage to avoid the frenzied pace that can accompany the Christmas season, what then? After Christmas we will still be waiting for Christ’s glorious return.  Do we truly expect to avoid all stress, all chaos, all commotion for the rest of our lives?

That holy night in Bethlehem when Christ our King was born was truly glorious.  But the journey wasn’t over.  And it wasn’t always calm and peaceful.  Imagine the commotion and uncertainty as they fled to Egypt in the middle of the night to save the Baby Jesus.  And imagine the frantic search for the Child Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple.  Even with the Son of God living there with them, I am sure that Mary and Joseph had their share of stressful and hectic moments.  We all do!

Try as we might, the Christmas season may not be quiet and peaceful at every moment for us.  We may not avoid all the chaos and commotion in this season or in the months and years to follow.  Even so, we can still find peace.  Emmanuel!  God is with us!  Even in the hectic moments, He is there.  And those moments will seem a little less hectic if we strive to remember that.   When we feel the frantic pressure of waiting in long lines to purchase gifts we can say a prayer of thanks for the loved ones in our lives.  When we find ourselves stuck in an endless traffic jam we can take advantage of the extra time and say a few prayers while we wait.  When life is swirling around us and we seem to find confusion every way we turn, we can trust that God is there beside us even when we can’t see the way ahead.

So this Advent season, if despite your efforts to remain calm and peaceful you find yourself stuck in the midst of the commotion, look to Mary and Joseph.  They show us how to follow the Lord and trust in His ways while still living out our daily lives, crazy though they may be.  Things may get hectic, plans may change, but God remains with us.  He is there in the calm.  He is there in the chaos.  God is with us!  Emmanuel!

Adoration

adorationI love going to Mass on Sundays.  The peace and joy that I feel does wonders for my soul and rejuvenates every part of me.  Even if I am having an emotional day and find myself crying during Mass, when we are given the instruction to go forth in the peace of Christ and sing that final hymn, I always leave feeling uplifted.

Throughout the week though, sometimes life gets in the way.  Despite my prayers and trying my best to remain focused on His light and His love for us, by the time Sunday comes around again I am in need of more.  I am relieved to be able to go to Mass once more and refresh my soul in the community of prayer and in the ultimate peace that comes from being in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Recently I decided that rather than waiting until I am overwhelmed by the usual weekly worries, I should work to find a way to continually be in His peace.  Not to take the place of the prayer life I currently have, but to enhance it.  While I cannot attend Mass daily, my church has Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Tuesday.  I decided to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  I went and was not disappointed.  My soul was refreshed, my worries were gone.  Everything melted away until only the peace and love of Christ remained.  I was eager to return next week and again found the same peace.

This week I was unable to go after work.  I found myself sitting at my desk Tuesday morning feeling again overwhelmed.  My brain started to derail and head down a path of negative thinking.  Worries crammed into my head and stress began to eat away at me.  I thought to myself, it is too bad I cannot attend Adoration at my church tonight.

But then I thought, why let that stop me?  I remembered hearing a listing on my local Catholic radio station of all the parishes in our area offering Adoration.  I looked online and sure enough I found a Catholic church not even five minutes from my office that holds perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament!  Immediately I started to feel better and was looking forward to going on my lunch break at work.

I only have a half hour lunch so I had to be quick.  I was worried I would find myself feeling rushed and wouldn’t be able to focus or relax.  In five minutes I arrived at this little chapel set back from the main church.  I went inside and was immediately at peace.   Tiny pews just big enough for one person, or perhaps two people if they squeezed together close,   lined a short aisle leading up to a beautiful altar where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed beneath a large Crucifix.  A statue of Mary was on one side of the altar, and St. Joseph on the other.  There were little stained glass windows lining the walls of the tiny chapel.  It was very beautiful.

But more than the beautiful appearance of this little chapel, you could feel the presence of the Lord.  There is something about sitting silently in Adoration, knowing that in a mystery we will never understand, Jesus is right there before us.  Not as a representation.  Not as an invisible presence.  Truly, visibly there.  I sat in a pew and took a quick glance at my watch making a mental note of when I would need to leave to be back to work in time.

As I began to pray, time stood still.  I did not feel rushed.  I did not feel the need to continually check my watch.  I prayed and knelt in the presence of my Lord and felt at peace.  When my prayers were finished and it was time to leave, although I had only been there for perhaps 15 minutes, it felt so much longer.

I went back to work and about my day as usual.  Nothing was different about the rest of the day.  The things I was worried about before, they didn’t disappear.  The things that were stressing me out, they weren’t magically gone.  What changed was me.  Instead of letting those things control me, I did what I needed to do to refocus myself on Christ.

My schedule will change and there will be times I cannot make it to Adoration.  Work obligations, family obligations, travel, weather, appointments, these things happen.  But I realize now how to deal with the little things that threaten to overwhelm me.  It is to place myself fully in God’s presence.  Through prayer, through Scripture, through Adoration.   Through being with Him and letting His Spirit fill my body, my mind, and my soul, until there is nothing but the love, joy, and peace of Christ.

“In this silence of the white Host, carried in the Monstrance, are all His words; there is His whole life given in offering to the Father for each of us; there is also the glory of the glorified body, which started with the Resurrection, and still continues in Heavenly union.”  – St. John Paul II, June 19, 1979 – Angelus Address At The Vatican

How to Achieve World Peace

If you even so much as glance at the news headlines, you may find yourself convinced that peace is nowhere to be found.  From the inhumane acts of terror the hands of ISIS to the tension between Russia and Ukraine walking the tightrope of war. Then there’s the never-ending fighting between Israel and Palestine and the disturbing rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria. It seems that the world has gone mad. When it seems the peace has disappeared, what do we do? How do we make it return?

Being President, Prime Minister, or any other position of such authority in a time such as this cannot be easy. These are the people who have to make the tough decisions.  Decisions that cost money, resources, and lives.  These are the people who prepare every word that comes from their mouths to try and maintain some sense of control over the chaos that ensues.   These are the people who we rely on to find and restore peace.

But how?  How do we achieve peace in our world?

Perhaps through dialogue. Everyone will sit down together and talk until there is a solution.  But what happens if those inflicting terror and harm have no desire to talk?  Not only that, but what if they don’t care what you say?  What if, even when using the strongest language possible, they still resort to only more killing?

Maybe world peace can be achieved by humanitarian aid. We can work as one towards a common good to battle things like hunger, disease, and poverty rather than fighting one another.  But what happens when even those who are working as humanitarians are kidnapped and killed?  What happens when some have decided that not all people are worthy of basic things like food, water, or even life?

Peace might be found if we rely more heavily on strict sanctions.  If we cut off outside assistance and force the parties to talk things over.  But what if the sanctions don’t work?  What if instead it only hurts the civilians and brings more pain and suffering?  Maybe that is not the way to achieve peace.

Can peace be achieved through war?  If the cause is just and war is necessary, will that bring peace to our world?   Even if a war manages to stop one atrocity, will it only fuel the anger and resentment that leads to the next?  And if there is a war, who will be called upon to fight?  Will it be left to one country to lead the way?  Or will everyone work together?  Who are we even fighting?

It seems as though there is no solution.  It seems as though peace simply cannot be found.

Perhaps that is because it never left.

I am not a world leader.  I do not know if talks or aid or sanctions or war will help.  But when it comes to finding peace for our world, the first step is to realize it has not gone away. True peace comes from Christ, and He has never left us.  As dire as things may seem, peace is not altogether gone as long as God is still with us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to 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

595474-bigthumbnailWe look around the world and think that peace has gone, but that is because we are looking for peace in all the wrong places.  Peace is not something we can achieve.  Peace is a gift from God.  Peace is something that is in our hearts from the Holy Spirit.  The Lord gives us His peace, and it is not as the world gives.  His peace does not promise that there will be no pain and suffering here on earth.  But it does promise that through His ultimate grace and love we will have peace and joy beyond our comprehension with Him in Heaven.  His peace calls us to trust in Him alone. To keep from fear by filling our hearts with His love and His peace until they become so full that they overflow; spreading that true love and true peace throughout the world.

There is a lot of sin in this world.  A lot of pain and suffering.  There are things happening all over the world that I cannot even begin to imagine.  We can watch the news and feel overcome with despair.  We can read the headlines and allow our hearts to be troubled by the atrocities happening.  We can feel like all hope is gone, like peace has disappeared, like there is nothing we can do to make it better.  But that is not true.

We can pray. When we feel like peace is gone, we can find it again within our hearts through Jesus Christ.

And so today I pray. I pray for all those suffering in wars and conflicts that are splashed across the news and in the ones that don’t make the front pages.  I pray for our world leaders as they are faced with the monumental task of finding a way to stop all the pain and horror.  And I pray for those whose hearts have been overtaken by sin and who commit such terrifying acts.   I may not know how to end wars, how to alleviate the world’s suffering, how to stop people from hurting and killing one another.  But I know the way to peace is through Christ.

Let us all come together in prayer that the true and lasting peace of Christ will come to the hearts of all.  To heal those in pain, to comfort those surrounded by sorrow, to guide those in positions of authority, and to lead those in darkness into the light.

Recognizing Christ

494px-The_resurrection_day_Jesus is Risen!  Alleluia!  The celebration of Easter is a wondrous one indeed.  But the glory of the Resurrection was not immediately realized.  When Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, and the other disciple saw the empty tomb, they did not know what it meant.  Peter and the other disciple returned home, probably confused at what was happening.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”  (John 20:11-16)

Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus?  Certainly she had spent enough time with Him to know what He looked like.  And only a few days had passed since she had last seen Him.  She purposefully went to the tomb to look for Him, so how is it that when she sees Him, she does not recognize Christ?

First, Christ appeared fully resurrected in all His glory. The fullness of His divinity was now evident.  He was not beaten, bloodied,  or weak.  Even so, wouldn’t she know Him when she saw Him?  Perhaps the better question is, do we know when we see Him?

Mary did not recognize the Lord because she was not expecting to see Him.  She knew He had died.  She was looking for a lifeless body and instead came face to face with the very source of life!  Despite His teachings, the human mind took control.  And that human mind said that Jesus had died.  He couldn’t possibly be here again.  Her grief, her sorrow, her confusion at the events that had taken place blinded her to the presence of Christ right before her eyes. 

What about us?  Do we recognize Christ?  Do we hear His voice and know it is Him?  We may not see Him standing beside the tomb, but He is still present among us.  When we see others in need, are we too blinded by our own worries and our own earthly needs to see Christ standing before us in them?  When we see others caught up in sinful behavior, is our vision clouded by our own judgements, perceptions, and anger?  Or do we recognize that each and every person is made in His image!  We only need to open our eyes and open our hearts to see the face of Jesus in every one of us.

Sometimes we see Him but fail to recognize the full glory that is present.  When we behold the Eucharist, we are in His presence!  When we receive communion do we see bread, or His Body?  God is not dead!  He is risen from the grave!  We do not need to search for Him within the tomb.  We need to instead see Him in those around us, in the Holy Eucharist, in all of creation!  His glory is abundant if we only open our eyes to see it!  Christ is all around us.   When worry and doubt clouds our vision, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open our hearts and allow us to recognize the glory of the Risen Lord that is present among us today.

Image: By Unknown; publisher of Bible Card (http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart27.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons