Tag Archives: peace

Moments of Glory

Moments of GloryBeing a disciple of Christ is hard work.  To stand up for what is right when it is more popular to do what you know is wrong is tough.  To preach the gospel through our words and actions despite how we might be feeling that particular day is not easy!  To love our neighbors, including our enemies, is a difficult concept to comprehend let alone live out in our daily lives.  And to remain filled with the joy,  hope, peace, and love of Jesus Christ, even when things around us seem to be too much to handle, well that can seem impossible.

And in truth, it very well might be impossible if we had to do it alone.  But the wondrous truth is that we are not alone.  We never have to face these tough times of discipleship on our own.  Even at times when we might not feel God’s presence, even during times when we may have strayed or turned away from the faith, God is still there.  Sometimes the things going on in our own lives or the things we see on the evening news discourage us and make us feel as though all is lost.  But God is still there.  Remembering this even during the times we do not “feel” His presence can be a struggle.  So how do we do it?

This Sunday in Mass we will hear Luke’s gospel account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.    Peter, James, and John go up on the mountain with Jesus to pray.  They are overcome with sleep and awake to see Jesus transfigured before them.  Jesus is standing there, dazzling white in all His glory with Moses and Elijah at His side as they discuss the events to come.  A cloud from heaven comes upon them and the voice of God says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Some time ago, our wonderful parish priest gave a homily on this very gospel story that has stuck with me.  He spoke of how the memory of this glorious experience remained with them and served to bring them hope in the tough times to come.  They had many trials yet to face, but the moment of glory that they had witnessed would provide them with strength to carry on.  It would serve as a reminder for them of the truly awesome glory of our God that surpasses any difficulties we face here on earth.

In our own lives, we have moments where we glimpse the glory of God. They may be large or small, but they are there.  Maybe it is a particularly breathtaking sunrise over the ocean that, each time you think of it or see a photo, you are reminded of the glory of the Lord.  Maybe it is your wedding day that you can look back on and see how clearly God’s glory was shown as you said your vows.  It could be a moment during mass when you were overcome with emotion or a silent moment alone in adoration where you felt His presence in an undeniable way.

These moments of glory stick with us and remind us that yes, God is there!  When things seem impossibly difficult in our own lives and when the world around us seems hopelessly lost, God has given us moments of His glory to look back upon and remember that the same God who created the sunrise, who brought you to your spouse, who is there in the Blessed Sacrament…He is here with you right now.  Even as you are reading this, He is there.

No matter how bleak or dark things may appear, find the glory of God around you.  Before becoming overwhelmed with stress, worry, fear, sadness, strive to remember a moment in your life when God’s glory shone through. And don’t stop there, but seek to find His glory displayed all around us each day.  Collect these moments of glory and keep them safe in your heart.  Use them to fill you with renewed strength to preach His gospel, to share His love, to stand up for what is right, to love those around you, and to remain filled with joy, hope, peace, and love in Christ no matter what happens.

We may not see the Lord transfigured here present be fore us like Peter, James, and John did.  But we can certainly see moments of His glory all around us.

Do Not Be Afraid

This world we live in is a tricky place sometimes. The barbaric acts that human being are capable of inflicting on other human beings is beyond comprehension. Certainly the recent attacks in Paris showed us that. It is not just France either. Many places throughout our world face violence on a regular basis through war and acts of terror. How are we to react in such times?

Any time there is a major attack on innocent civilians it tugs at the heart strings of nearly everyone. People from around the world came together in this last week to pray for and support Paris during this time. Prayer is so very powerful. Especially when it does not seem like there is much else we can do. How do you fight a terrorist group? How do you wage war on an organization that does not have a specific location? How do you reason with a group that could commit such heinous acts?

Terrorist. The word may have been new at one point. But having grown up in the midst of the 9/11 attacks, the term is certainly well-known. It describes a person or group whose purpose, truly, seems to be to inflict terror. They show no remorse at killing and do so without regard as to who these people might be. They have allowed evil into their hearts and souls and now try to inflict this terror on the rest of us. To make us think we need to be afraid. Perhaps to frighten us into becoming like them.

I am not a politician. And in times like these I am certainly glad that I am not the one making the tough decisions. But I do know of one way we can all fight back. And that is to resist the temptation to give in to that fear. That is exactly what they want.

Instead, we should continue to live our lives. Maybe hold our loved ones a little closer and spend some extra time in prayer for peace in our world. But we should still live our lives. Still travel and go on vacations and go to the mall and go see a movie or attend a sporting event.

And then we should take it one step further.

As Christians we are called to help those in need among us. Whether they look like us or not, regardless of where they come from. For in the poor and needy among us, we can find Christ. Jesus tells us that when we help those in need among us, we are helping Him. And that when we refuse aid to the least of His people, it is as though we are refusing to help Jesus Himself.

Matthew 25The recent attacks in Paris made our world seem smaller somehow. It brought the threat of terrorism again into the spotlight. And in the wake of these attacks, many have reacted harshly towards those who are in desperate need of help. The attacks of these terrorists have left literally millions of people displaced. Millions of people have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their loved ones. Millions of people have left everything they have ever known to get on a rickety boat in hopes that where they land will be better than the horror they are facing in the land they used to call home.

And it is our responsibility to help them in whatever way we can.

To close down our borders to certain groups of needy people solely out of fear that a terrorist may be among them? This is to let the terrorists win. This is a highly emotional topic and passions run high. But I believe that if we truly look in our hearts, if we read the words of Christ, it becomes clear that there is only one answer. Refuse to give in to fear and reach out to help. We cannot live in fear of a potential terrorist in our midst. And we certainly do not have the right to refuse assistance to so many people so desperately in need simply because they come from a similar geographic location as the terrorists try to call home.

We are called to welcome the strangers. And for those truly concerned about our national security? Our nation has measures in place to look into the background refugees. You can read about the process that these people go through in order to come to America here.

St. John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate famously said “Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ.”

It is time for us to live those words. To refuse to be afraid because we know that our God is bigger than any threat we might face here on earth. To refuse to live in fear of attack because we know the One who gave His life so that death is not the end! Death holds no power over us because Jesus has conquered death! To open the doors to our hearts so that we may be filled with the love of the Lord and the Holy Spirit within us. And to open the doors of our nation to those in need. For by serving them, we serve Christ.th

Pray for Paris.

Pray for Peace.

Do not be afraid.

A Prayer for September 11 – Pope Benedict

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O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and  traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here— the heroic first-responders: our fire fighters, police  officers, emergency service workers, and Port  Authority personnel, along with all the innocent  men and women who were victims of this  tragedy simply because their work or service  brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness. Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering. God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth. Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events. Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.

Pope Benedict XIV–Prayer at Ground Zero
New York, 20 April 2008

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)

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

The Human Heart Guard

Doc1I love my little puggle pup. She warms my heart and is part of our family.   As such, I want to take care of her to the best of my ability.   That means treating her to protect against fleas and ticks on our many walks in the park, taking her to the vet when she is sick, and giving her the monthly dose of medicine to protect against heartworm and other worms.  One of the popular versions of this medication is called Heartgard.  Now I am not here to plug Heartgard or advertise for them…in fact I am not even sure that we use their brand!  But as I contemplated the second reading from Mass yesterday, “heart guard” popped into my head.

The reading we heard in Mass was Philippians 4:6-9

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

What a beautiful passage!  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts…”  Isn’t that wonderful?  I imagine a tiny angel standing watch outside my heart.  Serving as  my own form of “heart guard” by keeping out all the worries, all the fear, the doubt, the anxiety, the negativity.  Only the good is allowed to enter.  And there is certainly enough good to fill up our hearts!  With such wondrous things surrounding us, how is it that those sneaky feelings of doubt and worry and overall negativity somehow break through and enter into our hearts?

Medications like Heartgard are wonderful!  But if you don’t use them regularly, if you let them sit in their box unopened, if you only give them to your pet once in a blue moon, they won’t be effective.  Despite all the merits they offer, without proper use, they won’t protect against a thing.

Perhaps we need to contemplate our own human form of heart guard.  This passage tells us that God will guard our hearts.  But it also gives us the instructions.  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,”  These are our first instructions.  To let go of worry.  To pray about everything and to let God handle our prayers.  To do this requires full trust.  The kind of trust that allows us to leave it in God’s hands and trust our prayers are heard and answered, even if we do not know how or when.

Our next piece of instruction in this passage is hidden within the promise “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   I am not a vet.  I do not understand how my dog’s heartworm medicine works to protect against disease.  I simply trust that by following the instructions, she will be protected.   In the same sense, we need to trust in God’s loving care and protection even though we do not understand it all.  The human heart guard we are given is the peace of God.  This peace is beyond our comprehension and is far too great for us to understand.  That’s ok!  We do not need to understand it.  We just need to trust.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”    This is where it is really laid out for us.  How do we allow our hearts and minds to be guarded against negativity?  Simple – we focus on the positive!  Rather than filling our minds with thoughts of doubt and despair, we focus our attention on the wonderful things that surround us.  We count our blessings and take a moment to find the good in whatever situation we may find ourselves.

Notice this is not a one time deal.  The final instruction we receive in this short passage tells us “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”  This is a continuous process.  To keep doing what we have been taught.  To keep loving God, loving our neighbors, finding the blessings all around us, following God’s commands, and placing out full trust in Him.  To keep up with the things we have received through God’s grace and the Sacraments.  To keep following Christ no matter what comes our way.

What happens if we forget to follow the instructions?  If we miss a dose of our heart guard and find ourselves lacking that peace within us?  God does not leave us.  He is always there with peace so as to fill not only our hearts and minds but truly our entire being!  The more we empty of ourselves, of our own concerns and fears, the more room we make for God’s peace to fill us up.  If we find that we have allowed the negative thoughts, the worries, the fear and the doubt to creep back in, we need not fear!  The peace of God is always within our reach.  We simply need to pray, to trust, to give it all to the Lord, and to focus instead on the wondrous blessings that surround us.  And then we will find our hearts, minds, and souls protected by our very own human heart guard by being filled with a peace beyond our understanding. The peace of Jesus Christ our Lord.