Let Your Stone Fall

There she was, scrawled on the ground before Jesus where she shoved down by her accusers. A crowd had formed, with some of the religious leaders asking whether she should be stoned or not.  Jesus, seeing their hearts, is saddened by their absence of love. Cold. Self-appreciating. Arrogant. No Mercy. No understanding. Only judgment. He looks around and finds each one, stone in hand, ready to commit violence and sentence death.

“Teacher, Moses said we should stone such people. What do you say?”

Jesus remains silent, squatting down to the ground, writing in the sand.

“Well? What should we do?”

Jesus stands up, looks at each person and their stones, and says, “The one among you who has no sin may cast the first stone.”

He went back to writing in the sand. The crowd paused. Some looking incredulously at Jesus. Others weighing the stone in their hand and weighing their hearts. One by one the stones fall to the ground with a dull thud and the crowd disperses leaving only the woman and Jesus.

Each of us at times are like those in the crowd, just as ready to cast our stones at others. Stones of judgment, criticism, bitter words, retribution and hate.

Today, let us stop and ponder the stones we hold in our hands ready to throw at others, and to recall the words of Jesus.

“The one among you who has no sin … ”

This is the day’s examine, to weigh the stones we carry, those we hold at the ready to cast at others, and be ready to drop them as soon as the moment rises in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, help me to drop the stone of _____________ (whatever attitude or thought you hold against another), and turn to You, the Just Judge. Help me to recall the words of the prayer you taught us, “… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us …” May I be able to let the stone I hold in my hand fall to the ground, and walk away in peace. Amen.


Reflection from the Gospel of John 8:1-11


Awake from Your Sleep

…you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light… (Romans 13:11-12, RSV).

These are the words proclaimed in the second reading this first Sunday of Advent. It can be broken down into six stand-alone statements:

  • Awake from your sleep! (Ready yourself – the time for resting is over)
  • Salvation is near. (The beginnings of salvation – at baptism – is behind you; it is closer at hand than when you began)
  • The night is gone. (The time for sleeping – the night, normally – is no more. The night is also traditionally a time for no-good-doers to come out to do their no-good-deeds. Without the night, their efforts are a lot more difficult)
  • The day is at hand. (The day is traditionally a time for hard work. Each day is new, and is like a new beginning)
  • Cast off the works of darkness. (In the Eastern Rites, the one to be baptized turns from the west (the setting sun) to the east (the rising sun – a symbol of Christ). This turning is a symbolic turning from evil/darkness to the goodness/light of Christ.
  • Put on the armor of light. (Get ready for battle)

For each of these statements, you may want to consider them as small admonitions from Saint Paul to you. We may hear him urging us, shaking us out of our complacency to an attitude of vigilance.

Are you vigilant in your prayer life? Advent is a time to take stock of our spiritual life, to move from our lethargy to actively engaging in conversation with God. It is human nature to think there is endless time. We put things off, and yet we are called in the reading of Saint Paul to the Romans to be ready.

Are you ready for the Day that Comes? Put on your armor of God’s light! The time is now.

For some wonderful insights:

A Recipe for Readiness, by Msgr. Charles Pope

Pope Francis calls us to ‘Enlarge our Horizons’

Bishop Barron discusses ‘The Mountain of the Lord’

May your Advent be blessed!

Dear daughter, you’re beautiful, regardless of what the media tells you

Early one morning I made my way to the Parish to meet with our 8th grade girls’ Bible study group. Sixteen of our students from Annunciation School were there, not in their school uniforms, but dressed in their personal best. It was picture day. My last words to the girls as they gathered up their things to go to class, “Remember girls, your real beauty lies inside of you. Let it shine through!”

beautiful shiphrah jpeg

How many of our girls today need to hear this message that they are more than what society sells them? The Church teaches all is made by “the author of beauty” (CCC 2500, Wisdom 13:3). Yet because of sin that good is often distorted, seeking something not created by God, but is of human origin.

Matt Walsh does an excellent job unpacking this theme, addressing his post to his very young daughter. It is a message we all should compose to the girls in our lives that we love and have concern for. I share his post here, hoping it will reach the ears of all the lovely girls and young women I know (you know who you are!). Let us take to heart the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians (4:8):

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Archbishop Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles spoke about the falsification of human beings, and the distorted image society creates in an address delivered August 1, 2013 in Napa:

“What’s going on is that we are living in a culture of extreme individualism. And people
believe they have the ability to “create” and “re-create” themselves, through science and
psychology, especially in the areas of their sexuality.

They don’t see their lives as a gift from God, but as a kind of “raw material” which they
can modify and re-fashion according to their own desires and their own sense of
meaning and purposes.”

(Read the whole discourse here). [hat tip: Mirror of Justice Blog]

The Matt Walsh Blog

Dear daughter,

You’re far too young to be aware of this, but, in the last few days, many people have watched a video of a model being “altered” by photoshop. It shows her artificial transformation from real and attractive to fraudulent and malformed — or, as they call it in the fashion world, “sexy.”

See, nowadays we use computers to “improve” images of real women, which is quite appropriate. After all, computers are manmade creations, just as our modern conception of “beauty” is a manmade creation. Modern “beauty” — or whatever you want to call it — certainly isn’t natural, and it most assuredly doesn’t come from God. It’s manufactured. It’s a product. True beauty, on the other hand, is art. It’s full of life. It’s unique and dynamic and vibrant.

It’s real. It’s you.

Hollywood and the fashion industry have concocted a “beauty” that is separate and apart from…

View original post 1,151 more words

A New Day Dawns

Look at the horizon,
from his slumber wakes
wrapped in the warmth
of his mother’s arms,

She holds him up,
presenting her Son this day,
‘He is with you always…
obey my son.’

In morning twilight,
her mantle flowing
with countless stars,
unveiling her protective cloak,
the Savior Child responds

Bringing brightness and hope
into a darkened world
the dawn of a new day,
the Lord has come!

– + –

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:5

A very Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

Never Forgotten by God

A religious once told me, “We only forget things that don’t matter much to us.” Her words come back to me readily as a point of examine of conscience when I forget something that I shouldn’t have. It begs the question, ‘do I really care about that (him, her, them)?’ 

This means of examine came to me today as I read the first reading from the Office of Readings, Isaiah 49:14-50:1. The reading begins:

Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my lord has forgotten me.”

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

In this passage, Zion wages a complaint, that during their Babylonian exile, God has forgotten His covenant to them, leaving them in desolation as slaves in a foreign land.

God responds to the complaint with words full of consolation for us too; a reminder that we really do matter to God. We are important to Him, so much so, that he tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “I will never forget you.”

I’ve been asking people to join me in praying in these days as Christmas approaches, for those who are alone, and/or those suffering from depression. My prayer for them is that these words of Isaiah may speak to them and comfort them in their affliction. That, like Zion, pouring out her grief, those who find themselves suffering can take these words of God to heart.

“I will never forget you.”

A related verse for those moments in our lives when it seems to Lord is long delayed in His coming:

“Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

An Ordinary Man Teaches Us Four Extraordinary Lessons

Today we gathered together to pay tribute to the life of our brother, Philip Andrew Doty. I wish to share the four lessons his life has taught us, as mentioned in his eulogy. God bless.

Anyone who knew Philip for even a brief span of time came to realize quickly his affinity for books. And, in my reflection my brother’s life, I realized, Phil’s life is a novel worth reading. Not because he has done extraordinary things…he is no superhero; nor has he made great contributions to better the society we live in. Though, he has done wonderful things, to be sure.

What make his life a compelling one are fundamental to any good novel: first, there are lessons the story teaches you about life…about love…about character and the human spirit; and second, when the last page is read and the book is closed, the reader has one or two unanswered questions that will only be answered by time.

Today, I would like to share my Cliff notes view into my brother’s life; a life worthy of celebration. And together, let us allow him be our teacher of some life lessons that will make us smile. I think in understanding this lasting legacy he has given to all of us, it may help us to wait patiently until the unanswered questions that linger on in our thoughts are answered.

Philip Andrew Doty was the fifth born of the Doty clan’s seven kids. He entered the world on October 3, 1964. I remember Philip as a quiet kid, reflective, as though he was always in the middle of working out a problem in his head. He was often lost in thought…and it has happened more than once that his doddling got him into trouble. Imagine my mother going shopping with seven kids in tow, telling us to stay close. She could turn around for a minute and Philip would be gone! It didn’t matter whether we were at a shopping center or amusement park, it happened more than a couple of times, Philip was lost. We’d usually find him after much worry sitting on the counter of lost and found eating an ice cream cone! I’m not even sure he was aware he was lost until someone asked him where his mother was. So comfortable was he with himself.

Part of his wondering off was due to his insatiable curiosity. He liked to know a lot of things. This made him a great companion, easy going, even in his childhood, whether playing street ball, hide and seek, building blocks. He enjoyed being with others; it didn’t matter much what the activity was, whether playing dolls with his sisters, or making purses (I talked him into doing); sports, just sitting in Church with dad entertaining himself with a set of Dad’s car keys – he seemed content to do or play what the other wanted, such was his nature. He had a real gift for making the person, whose company he kept, feel important. I’m sure each of you has specific examples where you have experienced this for yourself, where Philip taught our first life lesson: Enjoy your time with others. He so enjoyed the company of those he loved – friends and family alike.

He was always willing to play the other’s preferred game, or go where they wanted to go. To him, it didn’t matter; what did matter was, to do those things together. And he cherished these memories in his heart.

As Philip grew, he discovered a companion who would be a constant for him – books. Some of my earliest memories of Philip are of him with a book in hand, and, any moment he was not playing, he could be found reading. I’m sure as he grew and had a family of his own, there were discussions about books; in moving, how many boxes of books, where to put them, or store them… His inquisitiveness held no bounds and he would read anything, although he had his favorites, history, military stories, spirituality and language (how many times would we go somewhere, only to see Philip with a French or Spanish pocket dictionary make the trip too!).

His eclectic tendencies toward books were symbolic of his openness toward people. He didn’t mind that people were different, and it was the differences that drew him into other cultures and places. But it was not always that way. He told the story how, in his basic training he had gone along with the thinking of some of the men who talked badly about certain people. He had repeated some of these things in front of our parents and, when my mother confronted him about it:

“All the wisdom of a 19 year old…I think back on that moment as one of the most shameful and regretful things I’ve ever thought or said of another human being. And even more horrifying, did I ever contaminate anyone else with this poison I spread? I pray to God that I never did. The Book of Proverbs, 8:7 states, “My mouth utters truth; wickedness is abhorrent to my lips.” For sure, wickedness was indeed on my lips during that period of my life. I pray it will never find its way there again!”

Philip recalled this event, one that deeply shaped his understanding of who he was, and what he wanted to be. It made a strong impact on his future dealing with people who were different than himself. It is here, he sets the example for our second lesson of life: be slow to judge others, and quick to love them.  I remember many occasions where he would greet strangers with much respect, particularly those of other cultural backgrounds.

He had made a choice, which shows his great humility, to embrace others before rejecting them. I have never known Philip, following this brief year or two of his youth, to have anything bad to say about anyone. Although he was soft spoken, whenever a conversation turned to the worse, he would either change the subject, defend the person, or, if this weren’t possible, simply disappear like that small child losing himself in the supermarket. He took to heart the words of Proverbs, not to speak untruths of anyone. Many of us have witnessed this quality about Philip, which is one reason he was much admired by those who knew him.

While Philip was in the Navy, we always enjoyed his moments on leave when he would spend a few weeks at home. My Dad would always introduce Philip during these visits to some of the local women, hoping his son would fall in love with one of them. Susan was working at the Post Office in Nipomo at the time, and, when Philip came home on leave they would spend time together riding horses or visiting local sites. Philip knew he found his helpmate, his life-companion. Philip was a good husband, and accepted gratefully his growing family. He always felt blessed to have two children, Jacob and Lizzy, and was always concerned that they would grow to know right from wrong, and to be protected from a social environment that tries to take away our innocence while still very young. His obituary states his love for his family so well. It reads, “If Philip prefaced a statement with “my son” or “my daughter,” there was an unmistakable air of warmth and pride in his voice. All of us who knew him realized that everything he did, he did for or with his family.” He loved his family more than life itself.

He wrote about an event that happened, not long after he was diagnosed. He was trying to reconcile why God would allow this; not that he was not willing to be subjected to disease, but that he feared not being able to be there to help his children become strong adults. He happened to tune into a radio station that wasn’t his regular one. A father was being interviewed; whose five-year-old daughter had the same diagnosis as Philip:

“I came across a channel, which I had never listened to before, and they were speaking with the father of a five year old girl…The newscaster asked the man how a father deals with a terminally ill child, and he responded that it’s indescribable, and that he would give anything to trade places with is daughter. I thought to myself that I could not imagine what this poor father lives with every day, and that I was with him in that I would happily take on a disease like this to spare my wife or kids.”

Philip’s love for his family was that way. He loved deeply, and did all he thought best to protect what he loved most. This our third lesson of life from Philip – a lesson of sacrificial love. To love at all costs. I am certain that you, Susan, Jacob and Lizzy, know how much Philip, as a husband and father loved you. I also know that one of his deepest prayers, was that God will finish the work he allowed Philip to begin. To protect and care for you, and love you even more than Philip could do himself.

Philip wrote in his reflection about the little girl and her father that was willing to changes places, that he was ‘willing to take this bullet for the team.’ This is the greatest love that can only be outdone by the sacrificial love of God himself who let his only begotten Son – Jesus – die on the Cross for us.

This brings us to the last of Philip’s lessons for us, one that can only be known and fulfilled completely  between him and God, but it is worth exploring for us, who might be going through the same struggle. The struggle to understand the role of faith and God.

Phil thought a lot about God throughout his life. He wrote of his fond memories of going to church as a child, his love of the songs and ritual. He intuitively knew there was a Creative Force active in his life, and tried in many ways to make sense of what it was. He was baptized and raised Catholic, and in his teenage years, like so many do, he wondered away from the religion of his youth, not rejecting God, but uncertain of the expression that resonated in him. In his travels while serving our Country – which he loved dearly – he encountered many cultures and religions. In Japan, he was introduced to Buddhism; in Turkey he learned about Islam. And, he reasoned that there were a lot of similarities between the major religions of the world. Something kept him from embracing any of them fully. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God – he most surely did.

A turning point for him was his time stationed in Turkey. He had the opportunity to study the Bible and to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He of course, being a lover of history enjoyed the pilgrimage immensely due to the historical significance alone. He accepted anew Jesus as his Lord and Savior in the waters of the Jordan. It lead to his study the Old Testament, reasoning:

“I really felt connected to this Man (Jesus), and wanted to know more about what he thought and taught. Maybe I should look back at what Jesus taught in the Old Testament, rather than focus on the texts many decades to thousands of years after the Messiah’s time on earth.”

When he and Susan returned to the States, and Philip was at the Monterrey language academy, he began to study more in earnest the Hebrew Scriptures and the people of Israel.  He took a class, the “Introduction to Judaism”, and Philip shared:

“At this point I was still sitting on the post, unsure of whether this man named Jesus was the Son of God…for a religious Jew, the Hebrew Scriptures that he believed and trusted his faith in God…for us Christians, and the concept of Heaven and Hell, redemption, and the fight for our eternal souls, it seemed much more than just studying what we know of the New Testament. There had to be so much more involved. So, I continued to search.”

He was drawn to Judaism. He enjoyed the service, the music, the lessons. He liked the familiarity of “breaking bread and wine at the conclusion of Friday night services…Very enjoyable and spiritual time for me.”

He found his home in Judaism, and saw himself “a Jew in heart if not by Jewish law.” He concludes his search for faith, reasoning, “…above all, I believe absolutely in our Creator, who made the entire universe, and all of the laws of nature that our Creator established. I have complete faith in His wisdom, His reasoning of life and death, and that I do not know…or can even remotely conceive what God really has planned. I know that we all live and die, and that death is nothing to fear. And that only our Creator knows when that time comes.”

One of his favorite books was this one (an interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament). He had a large print edition that he read regularly, and this smaller copy. When I last saw Philip, he handed this Bible to me and pointed to the index card, saying, “This is the most important part of the whole scriptures for me.” When I opened to the page, it was marked Job 42:1-6, which comes near the end of Job’s trials. It reads:

Job said in reply to the Lord, “I know that you can do everything. that nothing you propose is impossible for You. Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge? Indeed, I spoke without understanding of things beyond me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask, and You will inform me. I had heard You with my ears, But now I see You with my eyes; therefore, I recant and relent, being but dust and ashes.”

This is our fourth lesson of life: Philip, in the midst of his suffering, his losing ‘everything’, handed all of it back to God, in trust. He understood that the Creator – God – is a God of Mercy. In his own confusion of faith, his struggle to reconcile Christianity with Judaism, he still believed that this too, God in his greatness will understand.

If he was standing with us here now, Philip would be able to teach us so much about the journey each of us must make to discover the Truth of God according to our capacity. He had no doubt that God would be waiting for him at the end. This is our final lesson of life – to be like Philip, and search out the meaning of our own relationship with our Creator.

Philip, our Son, brother, husband, father, coworker, our friend. We thank God that we were honored to share this first volume of your life; that by knowing you, we have become better human beings, and may we always honor your memory by following your example, until that Glorious day when we will again embrace and laugh, with no more pain; only perfect happiness and love.

May you rest in God, my brother, may his unending light shine upon you. May you rest in peace. Amen.

Before the Lord, No Room for Pride

As the Church celebrates Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, my thoughts return to ponder the mystery of the true presence of Jesus in the consecrated Bread and Wine on the Altar. There, before us, the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God that we read about in the Book of Revelation, chapter five. The Lamb slain:

” Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been slain…When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.

They sang a new hymn: “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation…”

I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”

Are we not called to give equal reverence to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? Does not the Church teach that Jesus is fully present there on the Altar?

There’s something about coming before the Lord, trusting He is truly before us, calling us back to full communion with Himself. And, it has been my experience in these moments, I am led to see, I have no room for boasting, but rather I find my own smallness, my weakness, my inconsistencies reflected in God’s perfection. What grace to pray, ‘Jesus, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.’

Approaching this feast, the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the words of Saint Paul come to my mind:

”    …about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.

Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  “

Therefore, let us come before the Lord today, acknowledging our deep need for Him; our deep desire to give Him the praise due to Him; our deep longing for forgiveness and healing that can only come from God; for a deep faith that says, “Jesus, I believe you are truly present here, in the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar.”

Adoration Prayer

My Lord Jesus Christ,
I believe that You are really here in this Sacrament.
Night and day You remain here compassionate and loving.
You call, You wait for, You welcome everyone who comes to visit You.
I thank You, Jesus my Divine Redeemer for coming upon the earth
for our sake and for instituting the Adorable Sacrament
of the Holy Eucharist in order to remain with us until the end of the world.
I thank You for hiding beneath the Eucharistic species
Your infinite majesty and beauty, which Your Angels delight to behold,
so that I might have courage to approach the throne of Your mercy.
I thank You dear Jesus, for having become the priceless Victim,
to merit for me the fullness of heavenly favors.
Awaken in me such confidence in You that their fullness may descend
ever more fruitfully upon my soul.
I thank You for offering Yourself in thanksgiving to God
for all His benefits, spiritual and temporal which He has bestowed on me.
Grant me grace and perseverance in your faithful service. Amen.


Are You a Man or  A Mouse? A Reflection on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, by Msgr. Charles Pope

Whispers in the Loggia: Bread of Angels by Rocco Palma

Beginning to Pray: Christ’s Real Presence and true Christian Life: never static, always dynamic, by Anthony Lilles

Caught in Awe

I have fallen into the hands
of the Living God.

Full of wonder; full of love.

I lay resting
in His gentle embrace.

I am healed
of my wounds and brokenness.

I am in awe at the power before me;
a power deserving of reverent praise.

I have fallen into the hands
of the Living God,
my strength and my all.

Veni Sancte Spiritus – Sequence

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the words of the Sequence are a worthy reflection (translation follows video):


COME, Thou holy Paraclete,
and from thy celestial seat
send thy light and brilliancy:

Father of the poor, draw near;
giver of all gifts, be here;
come, the soul’s true radiancy.

Come, of comforters the best,
of the soul the sweetest guest,
come in toil refreshingly.

Thou in labor rest most sweet,
thou art shadow from the heat,
comfort in adversity.

O thou Light, most pure and blest,
shine within the inmost breast
of thy faithful company.

Where thou art not, man hath nought;
every holy deed and thought
comes from thy Divinity.

What is soiled, makes thou pure,
what is parched, thy dew out-pour,
what is wounded, work its cure.

What is rigid, gently bend;
what is frozen, warmly tend;
strengthen what goes erringly.

Fill thy faithful who confide
in thy power to guard and guide,
with thy sevenfold mystery.

Here thy grace and virtue send;
grant salvation in the end,
and in heaven felicity.

Amen. Alleluia.

The Wonder of It – 3 minute retreat

Having a busy day? Perhaps you need a moment of refreshment at the well of God’s handiwork:


“Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these…
Do you not know or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 40:26,28


h/t: Elizabeth Hillgrove, on Twitter.

When too Distressed to Pray

For all who, like this person, find themselves with no words to pray in their suffering and pain…may you find comfort in knowing that our inmost groaning that comes when no words are found, is indeed a prayer heard by the Lord…and at times, is better than singing Alleluia!

Psalm 34:19 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.”

Jesus confirms these words, telling us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Thus, let us, in the words of Saint Paul take heart, and “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”

Note: When we cannot pray, it is always a good idea to ask others to pray for us. This is the grace and beauty of the Christian community. Be assured that any petitions left on this site, will be offered in prayer before the Lord. God bless you!


Other related posts:

Always a Way Back to God

Forgiveness – A Way Home

Faith in Adversity – Intercessory Prayer

Making it Right with God

Advent – A Call to Wait

Here’s a brief ‘retreat’ for you (thanks to Ruth – from the Pulpit of her Life) to remind us all to slow down a little bit in our anticipation of the Christ-Child. These four precious weeks before Christmas – Advent – is a time to step back and prepare our hearts to receive the Christ-Child. Are we ready to receive Him?

What if you were waiting for something that would change your life? How would you get ready for it? How are you getting ready now?

Let us pray:

God of power and mercy, open our hearts to wait.

Remove the things that hinder us from listening in the silence.

Help us to slow down, to ponder your deep unending love,

expressed through the incarnation of your Son,

the Word made Flesh.

Help us to be careful of the traps of this season of joy,

the things that distract us,

the things that keep our hearts from pondering Your love.

Open our hearts anew to recognize the ways

our relationship with You has changed our life forever.

Come Lord Jesus! Come!

Always a Way Back to God

I’ve seen this video before, Lifehouse’s Everything Skit, and it always touches a cord in me, so I am sharing it with you (please click picture to watch):

Like all of us, the young woman has life breathed into her by God, created for intimacy with Him. And so starts out our own human existence, innocent and playful, intimate…but somewhere, we fall into various traps: the skit portrays the traps (temptations) of lust, avarice, alchoholism, vanity, depression, despair, which can lead to suicide. The skit was designed to pull at the emotions: the music is hauntingly beautiful, the words could be a love letter from us to our beloved. It is meant to make us question, “what is my ‘Everything’?” and “What are the traps that bind me, keeping me from the One who loves me as I am?”.

One viewer of the skit observed: “The skit itself bothers me as it portrays Jesus at one point as being powerless to intervene. Come on, this is the Second Person of the Trinity, God Himself, and he is powerless to stop what is happening?”

Watching the story unfold, it does seem as though Jesus is powerless, no? One moment He is dancing with his creation, and at some point lust pulls her away from this union; and with it, her created innocence. In real life, this happens, but in much more subtle ways. Most of the time full-blown sin enters the soul by seemingly innocent curiosity… wanting to fit in, or the surrounding culture says tells us a television show or activity isn’t harmful. And by this very curiosity the soul lets down its guard and opens a window that allows something else (fill in the blank) be entertained. In the Gospels when Jesus says ‘one cannot have two masters’ (Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24), this wisdom is applicable to more than money and greed; whenever we make a choice to compromise just a little bit, we open the window just a little wider for something other than God to enter in, and in doing so, we let ourselves walk away from that union with our Creator that we were designed for. Each time we lower our standards, or tell ourselves, ‘just this time’, we create another barrier between us and that perfect union with God. The helplessness portrayed by Jesus, as the girl goes from one temptation to another is the result of the gift of our free will. He has made us free to choose, so in a way, we make Jesus powerless to help us when we choose a lifestyle contrary to His love.

The way back begins with a decision that we need God first and foremost in our lives, but it isn’t a magic trick that corrects itself automatically (although I do not rule out Divine intervention through special grace in some cases – I know this occurs). It requires our determination and will to return, or convert. Convert – the Latin convertere – means, “to turn around, transform”. What we see happening in the skit when the girl throws down the gun and starts trying to get back to Jesus, is this process of conversion taking place. It is a struggle of the will trying to overcome learned behavior – including how her mind and body have learned to respond to stimuli – takes a lot of her own effort. The skit shows her moving back and forth between different indulgences she’s experienced, as they ‘rear their ugly heads’ to again keep her from the One person who will shut them out for good. Just as it takes a soul a long time from that first instant she entertained a small step away from her union with God, so it takes a soul quite a bit of effort to put the acquired vices and sin behind her, and be free. She falls and fails, she gets up and tries again, until eventually, the hold of the old temptations on her life are less and less a threat to her goal – her renewed relationship with God. Seemingly, as in the skit, she has to go at it by herself, but true to scriptural teaching, she’s never alone.

There’s another important aspect conveyed in the skit. As she’s struggling, Jesus seems to be pulling her toward him by an imaginary rope. This pulling effect is the working of grace in our lives. Whenever we are struggling to overcome sin or vice, and call on God to help us, He comes to our aid. Our problems do not miraculously disappear, but there is a hidden resolve or strength that keeps us from giving up. This is grace at work. This is why people who are struggling to overcome addictions and vice need to ask for prayer, and to stay close to the Sacraments. The simplest definition of a Sacrament is ‘an outward sign of an inward grace’. Thus, when we partake in the Sacraments – especially Reconciliation/Confession, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion on a regular basis – we receive spiritual help and support to strengthen us in the daily battle to grow in holiness and continual conversion. Little by little we find the hold of our vices and addictions on our lives less and less, as we slowly reunite ourselves with the One we were created for.

A Prayer for All that is Good

Let us recall to mind all the graces we have received from the Lord…the healing of a sick child…a friend you’ve been praying for has come to know the Lord…a burden has been lifted from the heart…you were able to make ends meet this month…a high-risk surgery went well…making it through a really tough day…

So many things to be thankful for, and sometimes words don’t come to mind, but we can sing or say a sing an Alleluia in praise to the Lord for all that is Good in the world:

Un soldado a casa hoy regreso
Y un niño enfermo se curo
Y hoy no hay trabajo en el bosque de la lluvia
A soldier returning home today
And a sick child was cured
And today no one is working in the rain forest
Un desamparado se salvo
Por causa de una buena acción
Y hoy nadie lo repudia, hallelujah 

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

A homeless man was saved
Because of a good deed
And today no one rejects him, hallelujah 

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,hallelujah

Un ateo que consiguió creer
Y un hambriento hoy tiene de comer
Y hoy donaron a una iglesia una fortuna
An atheist who came  to believe
And a hungry man has something to eat
And today someone donated a fortune to a church
Que la guerra pronto se acabara
Que en el mundo al fin reinara la paz
Que no habrá miseria alguna, hallelujah
That the war was soon ended
That at the end of the world peace will reign
There will no longer be any misery, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah 

Por que la norma sea el amor
Y no gobierne la corrupción
Sino lo bueno y lo mejor del alma pura

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah 

Because the norm will be love
And they won’t govern with corruption
But with what is good and the best of a pure soul

Porque dios nos proteja de un mal final
Porque un día podamos escarmentar
Con que acaben con tanta furia, hallelujah
Because God protects us from an evil end
so that one day we may take heed
of what may happen with much fury, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in his arms.

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.

Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

A Saint Invites us Toward Christian Unity

The Letter to the Ephesians exhorts us:

“Be a prisoner for the Lord, 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 serve unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”

Today, the 12th of November, we remember Saint Josephat Kunsevych, born in 1580 in the Ukraine; a man who took these words of St Paul to heart. He was raised in the Orthodox tradition and was trained as a merchant’s apprentice. He was attracted, though, to the rigors of religious life, with a desire for a deeper spiritual life. During his youth, he experienced first-hand the separation by the Orthodox churches from the Holy See, and longed to see all Christians united under Christ.

On the 300th anniversary of St Josephat’s martyrdom, Pope Pius XI wrote the Encyclical, Ecclesiam Dei (The Church of God, promulgated on 12 November 1923):

The Church of God, by a wondrous act of Divine Providence, was so fashioned as to become in the fullness of time an immense family which embraces all men. The Church possesses—a fact known to all—as one of its visible marks, impressed on it by God, that of a world-wide unity… Since this communion of all the peoples of the earth in a world-wide unity is, above all things, the work of God, and therefore to be had only with the divine help and assistance, let us have recourse with all care to prayer, following in this both the teachings and example of St. Josaphat, who, in his apostolate for unity, trusted above all else in the power of prayer. Ecclesiam Dei, #1, #23.

The deep longing St Josaphat experienced, for Christian Unity, is the call of every Christian who has found the deep treasure of Salvation through Christ. May we one day be able to share our joy in union with our brothers and sisters at the Table of the Lord.


fill your Church with the Spirit

that gave Saint Josaphat courage

to lay down his life for his people.

By his prayers

may your Spirit make us strong

and willing to offer our lives

for our brothers and sisters.

We ask 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.

Saint Josaphat, Pray for us!


More on this topic:

St. Josaphat, martyr for Church unity, to be remembered Nov. 12

Biography of St. Josaphat Kuncevyc


On Christian Unity:

The restoration of unity among all Christians