Tag Archives: Beatitudes

God. Not God. These are the Only Choices!

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires, all of which are governed by the will. Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

— St. John of the Cross, p. 259 of “Ascent of Mt. Carmel.”

Not everyone is going to heaven.  Let’s get that out of the way.  And, there are probably people who are going to hell who, at this moment, don’t think that it is possible for them.  After all, they were baptized and received their First Holy Communion (especially if they are Catholic) or they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (if they are Protestant.)  It’s not enough, though.

We have to make the choice to act like we are baptized or Jesus is our Savior every single minute of our existence on this life.

Dr. Italy likens this to a door.  On one side is Jesus (who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to the Father) and on the other is not-Jesus.  The idea is at the end of our life the door will close and depending upon which side of the door we are standing when it slams shut and locks will determine where we spend eternity.

I don’t know about you, but I tremble when I think about it.  St. Paul told us that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Pretty scary words.  I mean, have you read Matthew, Chapter 5 and 25?  We all fall short of the beatitudes.  Oh, and by the way, the door is narrow that leads to heaven.  More complications.

And, yet, there is so much hope if (and this is a big “if”) we trust Jesus.  Trust Him in everything, everyday.  Put our daily lives into His loving Hands.  Sometimes, I feel like the woman with the hemorrhage and I touch the hem of His garment and hold on for dear life.  Everyday, we make the choice for God because we don’t know when that door is going to shut.

Choose wisely, friends.

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Have to Get It Right!

Matthew 5:48   “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Want to know what you need to do (and, if you are anything like me, you’re probably not doing it very well at all.)  Read Matthew Chapter 5.  You know, the one with the beatitudes, plucking out eyes and cutting off hands, and anger, and adultery, and divorce, and swearing, and retaliation, and loving one’s enemies.  One can’t read this Chapter without realizing what little worms we are when it comes to the whole perfection thing.  I read Chapter 5 before and after going to confession.  This and Chapter 25 are all I need to trot myself off to the confessional.  Add the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and I can go all gooey on the inside contemplating my long stay in Purgatory.

And yet. . .

God gives us grace and forgiveness and mercy to help us to prioritize the pursuit of holiness in our lives.  Pursuing holiness begins with having a strong, true, and ardent love for God and for our neighbor.  It means praying and fasting and making each word and act and little daily sacrifice the means of proving our love for our Savior who died on the cross for Love of us.  An effective love can transform a dry, cold heart into a furnace of charity.  Then we can burn with Love of God even while we must live here below.  I hope you, like myself, pursue this ardent charity.

We got to get this right.

“Lord, with your loving care, guide the penance we have begun.  Help us to persevere with love and sincerity.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”  Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday.


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I Miss the Phone Calls

It has been 5 weeks since my mom died and I miss the phone calls.

I had called mom every night at 6:50 p.m. for almost 9 years.  Sometimes we would talk for 10 minutes and sometimes we would talk for an hour–it depended upon what was going on in our lives.  One of the things about it was that I got to tell her every night that I loved her and she told me that she loved me.

Now, I look at the clock and my heart is sad because I know exactly what I would have told her last night.

For instance, I tried to have a joke or two for her once in a while and she would pretend to think they were funny.  Last night I would have told her about Moses the Parrot and Jesus the Rottweiler.  (old joke but still fun.)  She would have laughed and then reminded me that she wouldn’t remember it to tell anyone else.

I would have told her how I cried on Sunday when they sang “Don’t be Afraid,” because that is what was sung at her funeral Mass.

We probably wouldn’t have talked too much longer than 7, because that is my hour for Adoration, so as I was going into church she would remind me to pray for her and I would tell her, as I did every Monday evening, that I always do and not just on Monday night.

Now, I pray for the repose of her soul, waiting for when my mourning will be turned into gladness.

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Valuable Pastoral Wisdom from St. James

Memory Verse

James 1:22  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”


St. James begins to offer some valuable pastoral wisdom right after we have focused on dealing with trials and tribulations.

“Know this, my beloved brethren.  Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1: 19-20)  When I think about it, the pressures and stress of trials usually make me very slow to listen and faster to speak.  There used to be a psychologist friend of mine who said that anger is always the end emotion of something much deeper going on in our mind.  Sometimes it can just be a fear of losing someone or as explained by St. James, it can be the result of a trial we are going through.  These can be financial, health-related, relationship-related, work-related, family- related—the list of stressors can be unlimited in this earthly existence.

During times of trial (tension), we tend not to listen well because we are formulating in our head what we want to say while our conversation partner is trying to be heard.  Many communication problems can be traced to tension which can lead to anger, also.  St. James teaches us that as a Christian, we should be meek with a disposition that is receptive to learning as opposed to anger.  Anger  can carry with it an attitude that is demanding.

In addition, James tells us to do two things:

  1.  Put away filth and evil from your life and
  2. Welcome the word that has been planted in you.

He further warns us (just like a good pastor, does) that we must not fall into the deadly pattern of deception which is hearing the word of God but not doing it.  When we hear the word but don’t do it, we are deceiving ourselves and treating the Word as if it were powerless.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  (Hebrew 4: 12)

St. James

St. James


Next time:  Points to Ponder





@Home Work: 

  1. When it comes to anger, in what areas are you typically vulnerable?
  2. When talking to an acquaintance, can you tell if he/she is really listening to you?  How do you feel when you know he/she is not?
  3. Is there an area of your life that you find yourself repeatedly saying, “I really need to do something about that?”  What do you think is keeping you from doing it?
  4. How does society foster the idea that anger will achieve the desired goal in one’s life?
  5. Why are we particularly susceptible to anger when faced with trials?


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We Celebrate; We Believe

“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by the angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up into glory.” (1 Tm 3: 16)

Happy Ascension Day!   Some of you have already celebrated; some of us will be celebrating on Sunday.  I’m not going to go into a rant here, but I wish our province still celebrated on Thursday.  After all, 40 days is 40 days!

Faith that is not expressed and celebrated cannot grow.

In the Year of Faith, we are asked, not just to renew our own personal commitment to Jesus but to join together as the Body of Christ in worship.  Throughout salvation history as passed down in the Scriptures, faith and worship have been linked.  Abram heard God speak and then offered sacrifice.  Jacob heard a renewal of the promised Land and set up a stone at Bethel with an anointing.  Later, Moses met God and learned that Israel should worship on Mt. Sinai.  After Israel passed out of Egypt, traveled to Mt. Sinai, and professed faith in God’s word and commandments, they worshiped and offered sacrifices, according to His word.

The Mass

As Catholics, our worship centers on the Mass.  Today, we are going to summarize and high-light some parts of the Mass and how they are a call to deepen our faith.  (More can be found in Father Mitch Pacwa’s bible study guide for Catholics, “The Year of the Faith” on pages 70-73.)

Introductory Rites:  The sign of the Cross is both a blessing and a commitment to participate in the whole Eucharist.

Penitential Act:  We acknowledge that we have sinned and express faith that the Lord forgives us.

Gloria:  This is a song of praise and also of faith in each Person of the Trinity.  The words of faith are interspersed with praise and petition.

Readings:  We believe that the readings are the Word of God.  So at the end we make a response of faith.  “Thanks be to God.”  “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”   The homily is an exhortation to believe and apply the faith to life.

The Creed:  By reciting these key dogmas of our faith we are making a personal profession of faith in public.

Offertory:  Our response “Blessed be God forever” is an act of faithful thanksgiving that we have the gifts to offer.  When we pray that these gifts will be acceptable, we are expressing our faith in the power of the priest to offer our sacrifice.

Holy, Holy, Holy:  This is both a promise of God’s presence and an act of faith in the coming of Lord who will be present on the altar in just a few moments!

Eucharistic Prayer:  The conclusion is the GREAT AMEN, an act of faith by the whole congregation to set its acceptance of all that has gone before.

Our Father:  Saying the prayer that Jesus taught us is faith in the intimate relationship we have with God as our Father who we trust will answer our prayers as Jesus promised.

Lamb of God:  An act of faith in Jesus who is about to enter our hearts as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin and brings us peace.

Communion:  The priest professes an act of faith to each communicant, “The Body of Christ”/”The Blood of Christ.”  We respond in faith.  “Amen.”

Post Communion Prayer:  This prayer pretty much sums up the faith we have experienced at Mass, especially in receiving the Eucharist.

Blessing and Dismissal:  We are blessed to receive the grace to go out into the world and continue living the Mass and professing our faith.

This week at Sunday Mass, let’s pay particular attention to the structure of the liturgy.  Let’s be especially aware of how the Liturgy of the Word helps carry us into our assent of faith through the reception of Holy Communion.  I don’t know about you, but I think a will spend a few minutes after Mass thanking God for the gift of faith.

MP900289346Next:  Worship in the Old Testament.

Meditation:  Do you consider attending Mass on Sunday a duty or an act of love?


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Faith and Works–Paul vs. James?

Consider the following quotations.

Romans 3: 28  “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of law.”

James 2: 24  “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

It might appear that St. James and St. Paul are contradicting each other.  However, if we go below the surface and examine these statements in their proper contexts, we discover that they are not in disagreement at all.  Since they are addressing different pastoral situations in the early church, they draw attention to different aspects of the common doctrine on faith and works.  (As an aside, the words “faith alone” only appear in James; never in Paul.)


St. Paul:  He is speaking of the faith that leads to Baptism; the faith of the convert.

St. James:  He is talking about the faith of a professing Christian.

The point:  Paul and James discuss the role of justifying faith in two different contexts; namely before and after the believer is incorporated into Christ by Baptism.


St. Paul:  In Romans 3: 28, he is specifically speaking about works of the Mosaic Law.  His point is that no one can earn or merit the free gift of grace by obedience to the Torah.

St. James:  In Jas 1: 27; 2: 15-16, he is affirming works of mercy by those already established in grace.

The point:  Paul denies the saving power of Mosaic works performed on the strength of human nature, while James affirms the value of Christian works performed by the grace and power supplied by Jesus Christ.


St. Paul:  According to him, our initial justification is in Christ; that critical moment when God makes the believer righteous by an infusion of His Spirit and life.

St. James:  He talks about works of Christian obedience undertaken in response to the grace of Christ:  believers who put their faith into action and want to live the gospel in practical and charitable ways.

The point:  This teaching of James is in full harmony with the teaching of Paul. (Rom 2: 13; 6: 12-19)

Let’s stop here so everyone can read James 2: 14-26 in our own Bibles.

James the Less

James the Less wrote the first Catholic Epistle

Next time:  Celebrating Faith

Meditation:  Use 1 Cor 13: 4-7 as a starting point to make an examination of conscience.  To make the passage more personal, substitute “I am. . .” for the words “Love is. . .”

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I Once Was Blind; But Now I See!

Then God goes on to say, “I invite you to a relationship of love: your love of me, my love of you.”  Yes, God comes to us as an invitation to love. . .

At this moment love surges in our heart like a tremendous sea that takes us in and lays us in the arms of God whom we haven’t seen but in whom we believe.  Across the waves we hear, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29).  Now I walk in the darkness of faith and I see.  I see more clearly than is possible with my fleshly eyes.

–Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty

Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52)

Bartimaeus’ eyes are opened by Jesus in two ways.  The obvious opening is the physical one.  The second opening is in Bartimaeus’ response to his healing.  Even though Jesus told him to go his way, Bartimaeus chose to follow Jesus.

Bartimaeus is a model for the process of conversion.  He had a strong faith.  He called out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:48)  This means that he believed Jesus was the Messiah.  And this belief added to what he had heard about Jesus stirred up a great trust.

When asked what he wanted, Bartimaeus replies, “Master, let me receive my sight.” (Mk 10:51) What boldness!  What confidence!  What faith!

Jesus affirms how important trustful faith is to Him when He replies to Bartimaeus, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  (Mk 10:52)

This convert stays with Jesus to know His teachings and to be formed by them.  He stays with Jesus, trusting in His wisdom.  He stays with Jesus at the cross so that he finds the forgiveness of his sins through Jesus’ suffering.  He stays with Jesus because the Resurrection promises new life.  He stays with Jesus to be nourished and given hope.

Our prayer today and always:  Let us stay with you, Lord.  Let us walk in your light so we may truly see!

(FYI: Tomorrow, Thursday, April 26th is the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist.)

BartimaeusNext time:  the woman at the well

Meditation:  Have we been through our own conversion process?  Are we using this Easter season to really know Jesus through His word?

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No Matter What the Consequences!

“Hear as Jesus heard; speak as Jesus spoke; suffer as Jesus suffered; die as Jesus died; rise as Jesus rose.”–One Bread One Body for Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

I have been sitting here with pen poised trying to visualize what this day would have looked like for Jesus and His disciples.  Was there an aura of intrigue about the temple and were they aware of it?  Had the disciples relaxed a bit because of the Hosannas ringing out when Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before?  Were they watchful and anxious or just “hanging out” with Jesus?  Beginning Thursday evening, they will fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.

I think I’m “hanging out” with Jesus after this post until Saturday afternoon.  I’m praying that I won’t fall asleep, betray, flee, deny, despair, and hide.  What about you?

Well, today, we study the final 9 verses of the Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 7: 21-29.  I have learned much during this study.  Hope you have, too.

Concerning Self-Deception

Matthew 7:  21-23

7: 22 on that day:  This is the Day of Judgment on which Jesus will be the Divine Judge.  God’s sanctifying grace makes our soul fit for heaven.  We manifest it when we conform ourselves to the Father’s will, by knowing and obeying Jesus.  Sanctifying grace is conclusive evidence of our personal sanctity and membership in the family of God.  Charismatic graces, while heaven sent, are not.  (CCC 2003)

Hearers and Doers

Matthew 7: 24-29

7:24 like a wise man:  true wisdom puts Jesus’ teaching into practice and prepares for the future.  his house:  Physically, this parable alludes to building in New Testament Palestine.  Mud-brick houses were generally built in dry season.  Only a house with a solid foundation would resist erosion and destruction when torrential rains came.  Jesus’ reference to a wise man and his house is a reference to King Solomon who built the temple upon a great stone foundation.  Morally, the enduring house is the soul that is maintained only through labor and the materials of prayer and virtue grounded on Christ.

7:29 One who has authority:  Jesus delivered “new teaching “(Mk. 1: 27).  This teaching excelled over Mosaic Law in perfection.  (Matthew 5: 21-48)  Later, Jesus would denounce traditions that are incompatible with God’s word.  (15: 3-6; CCC 581)

The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25:  these are all part of Jesus’ blueprint for Holy living.  I know that I will continue to read and ponder them often during this pilgrimage to heaven.

“Save us, save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountNext time:  Easter Monday

Have a blessed and holy Triduum and a Joyous Easter!


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The Race to the Empty Tomb Begins

“Mary brought a pound of costly perfume made from genuine, aromatic nard, with which she anointed Jesus’ feet.  Then she dried His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the ointment’s fragrance.”–John 12: 3

I love this passage from John.  It makes me think.  “Am I willing to give everything I have and everything I am to Jesus without counting the cost?”  Good question to think about during Holy Week.

Now to the second last section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Ask, Seek, Knock

(Matthew 7: 7-12)

7: 7  Ask. . .given you:  Jesus advocates perseverance in prayer.  Answered prayers stem from faith-filled intentions.  (CCC 2609)

CCC 2609 “Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. . .the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. . .He can tell us to “seek” and to “knock” since He Himself is the door and the way.”

7: 11 you then, who are evil:  Jesus indicates the pervasive sinfulness of man.  good things: the material necessities of life as well as the grace to live as God’s children.

7: 12 do so to them:  Jesus states the Golden Rule positively. (CCC 1970)

CCC 1970 the entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the ‘ new commandment’ of Jesus, to love one another as He has loved us.”

The Narrow Gate

(Matthew 7: 13-14)

Cities surrounded by a fortified wall had both wide and narrow gates for access.  Main, wide gates were big enough for whole caravans to pass through.  Small, narrow gates permitted only pedestrians.  Jesus is telling us that many will pass through this “easy” gate to “destruction.”  The “few” must exert some effort to make it to “life.”

False Prophets

(Matthew 7: 15-20)

These so-called prophets appear harmless, yet their ministry breeds error, division, and immorality.  (2 Peter 2: 1-3)

2 Peter 2: 1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not bee idle and their destruction has not been asleep.”

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Wednesday:  Matthew 7:  21-29

Study Question:  In Catholic Tradition, what is sanctifying grace?

Meditation:  Am I ready to carry my small sharing in the Cross of Jesus?


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“Judge not, that you be not Judged.” Matthew 7:1

Today is the last Friday of the 40 days of Lent.  Are you preparing yourself for the holiest week of the year?  I suggest that everyone spend an hour this coming week in front of the Blessed Sacrament in preparation for the Triduum.  What a wonderful heavenly climate to realize that Jesus is God.  As you “fix your eyes” on the eucharistic Jesus (Heb. 3: 1) let Him fill you with “eucharistic amazement.”  (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II, 6.  Let’s make Holy Week a priority!

Judging Others

Matthew 7: 1-6

Jesus’ teaching on judgment has two sides.  1) He condemns judging others’ faults.  (7: 1-2)  We can’t judge others with fairness and accuracy because we can’t see another’s heart like God can.  He alone know the heart.  2) However, Jesus commands us to exercise critical discernment (7: 6, 15-19.)  Otherwise, we might profane what is holy (7: 6) or embrace what is false. (7:15)

7:2  you will be judged:  We set the standards of our personal judgment (by God) by our own conduct toward others.  (cf 18:35)

7: 6 dogs. . .swine:  The Jews would call pagans, dogs and swine.  Jesus uses these insulting labels to describe anyone who is inhospitable to the Gospel–both Jew and Gentile.  what is holy: In Judaism, holiness characterizes anything consecrated for covenant worship.  To treat holy things, then, in a common manner would profane them.  (Ex 29: 37; Lev 22: 10-17)  Jesus is applying this notion in the New Covenant.  The Early Church used this statement to rightly withhold the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist from the unbaptized.

Next time:  Chapter 7:  7-20

Study Question:  The Gospel for Palm (Passion) Sunday:  Luke 22: 14-23:56)

Meditation:  In heaven, the saints stand “before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in long white robes and holding palm branches in their hand.”  (Rev. 7:9)  Some Palm Sundays last forever.  Yours can as well.—One Bread One Body for Sunday, March 24, 2013.

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