So I Want To Be Like Jesus?

I have a big smile on my face as I begin to write. My prayer each day is to surrender completely to the will of God, be transformed and be like Jesus. As I reflect on today’s Gospel from Luke 4, Jesus is in His hometown of Nazareth where he grew up. He is doing miraculous healings and answering all kinds of requests for the poor and needy. He even tells the people that He is the fulfillment of the passage He just read from Isaiah while in the Synagogue.

How do the people react. They question each other, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” I am pretty sure they did not think that something great could come from the poor souls of Mary and Joseph. The more Jesus spoke the truth, the more they were filled with fury to the point of wanting to throw him down from the brow of a hill.

I am a musician. I have played with some pretty good groups in my lifetime and had a pretty good following in the secular world. I wanted the fame and the limelight and really could never quite make it to that elite level. Thanks be to God! So now, I play for the Lord and direct 5 other former secular musicians in a group we call SIGN, Singing In God’s Name. We are six ordinary family men that have been blessed with musical talent by our most loving God. We play exclusively at our church at Mass and we are very serious in glorifying God through our music. Let’s say, when we play, we bring a unique kind of life to the Liturgy, fully understanding that it is not about us or the music, but it is all about Jesus. But we also know that we are called to use our gifts for God’s glory.

That being said, my family could care less about my music. They say hardly a word or even ask about my group. They never request to listen to me or ask if I might play at a casual get-together. We made a CD of the Lord’s Passion with original songs that I wrote and I would guess they could not even find the CD I gave to them or maybe never ever listened to it. I am still smiling!!! So I want to be like Jesus??? I do!!! Thankfully, I do not think my family will try to run me off a cliff and I do know that they love me as a dad, a papa, an uncle, a brother-in-law and you get the picture.

It’s a great gift for me to practice humility. I work on a college campus and occasionally, I will go out to the courtyard where there is a piano and I play and sing a few oldies but goodies before I head home. I probably have received more compliments from passer-byes than from my own family members! And yes, I am still smiling! It’s good to be like Jesus in even the smallest of ways.

So I Want To Be Like Jesus?

Inside Information

All four of today’s Mass readings brought to mind how I am living my life in Christ and also how the ways of the world keep tugging to take me off the narrow road that my Lord tells me leads to eternal life with Him.

Deuteronomy 4 says; “for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’”

Psalm 15 says; “Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; by whom the reprobate is despised, while he honors those who fear the LORD.”

James 1 says; “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”

And finally the Gospel from Mark 7 says; “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

I got the impression from Deuteronomy that if we listen and follow the commandments of the Lord, we will give great witness of wisdom and intelligence to lead our nation to greatness. What has happened to our once great nation. I think we, society has looked to the wisdom and intelligence of the world rather than that of God.

And in Psalm 15 it is another way of reminding us to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength along with loving our neighbors as ourselves. I think we, society has become very selfish in our decisions with the mantra of “what’s in it for me?”

It’s much easier to listen to the word of God than to do it. James says we need to do the will of God. I have been thinking much of the corporal works of mercy, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead. How much do I really do? Now the spiritual works of mercy I am much better with, counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving others, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the dead.

And then Jesus tells us that evil comes from within us. That is pretty sobering. If I do not clean out the sin within me, there is no room for the Holy Spirit to reside and it is very hard for me to bring the ways of Jesus to the world according to my state in life.

I do have great faith, hope and trust that God is permitting much of this evil to somehow bring us closer to him. I for one will be clinging to Him as the world continues to try to take me down. May God bless us and have mercy on us all.

Inside Information

I Want To Be Like John The Baptist

Being like John the Baptist sounds a little crazy considering he was beheaded. Today in the church we celebrate the Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist. There are many characteristics of John that I would like to incorporate as I journey with Jesus.

  1. The first is that John, like our Blessed Mother, points people to Jesus. It is not about him but everything is about Jesus. When the followers of John questioned this, he said what I want to live everyday, “He must increase and I must decrease.”
  2. John stood for truth. He was not afraid to tell Herod that it was unlawful for him to marry his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. That truth would cost him his life because Herodias, in today’s Gospel from Mark 6, would ask for his head on a platter.
  3. My favorite characteristic is when John was in his mother Elizabeth’s womb only 6 months. Our Blessed Mother Mary came to the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth, her cousin, and when she greeted Elizabeth, John leaped in her womb. Jesus, just conceived, brought great joy to John. I want to leap for joy every time I hear the name Jesus. My Lord is so awesome!

There is a lot of evil in this world. And evil was on full display with Herod, Herodias and Salome. It was a great party filled with sin. I can only wonder what John must have thought when they came to behead him. My guess would be that he got down on his knees in a position to make it easy to be beheaded and he prayed for Herod and Herodias. Like Jesus on the cross, His words ring loud and true, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” John’s reaction may not be in scripture, but it is in my heart and I still want to be like him.

I Want To Be Like John The Baptist

Checking My Dipstick

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 25 is reminding me to check my oil. Is my oil level right with God? The passage pits 5 wise virgins together with 5 foolish virgins. Wise versus foolish. Wow, I can recall many of the times in my life when my oil was really low and in grave danger of running out. And today as I check my oil, the levels are pretty good.

Now the Gospel was surely not talking about the oil in our cars and the dipstick we use to check levels but Jesus uses the parable of bringing lamps to be prepared and ready when the Bridegroom arrives. We never know when the Lord will come and we must be prepared. We need all that extra oil to keep our lamps burning because the Bridegroom might be delayed. The foolish virgins did not bring extra oil, hence they were foolish. They wanted some of the wise virgin’s oil but were told that they needed to go buy some for themselves.

And what happened to them can happen to us. When they were off buying oil, guess who came? Yes, the Bridegroom. And into the wedding feast he went with the wise virgins and locked the door. When the foolish virgins arrived they said…

“‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

I cannot imagine hearing those words from Jesus. “I DO NOT KNOW YOU!” Lord, I pray much and today I spent some precious time in the Chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. Oh how I love you Lord. But oh how I have hurt Him and offended Him in my foolishness. What if my Lord would have called me home in my foolishness and so unprepared to meet Him?

But in the power of His love and mercy with the graces He has poured out for me, there is also Wisdom. I like Wisdom! It comes with great responsibility. I am in a very peaceful state in Christ. I cannot settle. I want to love God as He loves me. I want to love my neighbor as much as I love myself. I have so much more room to grow. Today is the memorial of Saint Augustine. There is much I can relate to him, the sin part, not the brilliant man of God he became to be. He liked sin. He prayed something like Lord, make me pure but not yet! Yes, I can relate.

Lesson for the last three days of Gospel readings is to be prepared. Heavenly Father, I ask that you will prepare me to meet Your Son Jesus when He comes again, both at my particular judgment and at the final judgment. Through the help of Your grace, give us the oil needed to glorify you in our lives and to be prepared for your coming. I ask this dear Jesus in your holy name. Amen.

Checking My Dipstick

Saint Monica and My Great Sin

It’s been a long day! Awoke at 5am, off to work, home at 9pm and now settling in to reflect. It seems to have become the norm for me. No life you might say? Maybe so but I am fortunate to spend it with Jesus. I think about Him all day in pretty much all I do. There are times I get lost in work or in the moment, but I am brought back to Jesus.

Today, I listened and read the readings for the day a few times, not only to write about it but to put it into practice. The Gospel message today, STAY AWAKE! Be prepared when Jesus comes like a thief in the night. I think St. Monica was prepared. Her perseverance is a great example to me. So tonight, I open up a little my desire to never give up.

I have been married 42 years with 2 beautiful daughters and 3 beautiful grandchildren. I was brought up with no religion and my wife was a non-practicing catholic. We were high school sweethearts and that’s my background. 10 years into our marriage, I had an affair. I am an adulterer. I got caught and I lied much about it to my wife. We went on a Marriage Encounter Weekend, one which I told her that if they try to shove God down my throat, I will walk out. When we checked in, they asked what my religion was because it was blank on the app. I told them “put down nothing, NOTHING!” I was just about ready to walk.

The weekend changed my life, our lives. We could not get enough of Jesus. I took private instruction from a priest to prepare for my Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. At the Easter Vigil, in the morning we had our marriage blessed, at Mass I was baptized with my two daughters, received Confirmation and First Communion. 4 Sacraments in one day. Could it ever get any better than that?

We became leaders in Marriage Enrichment, RCIA, Bible Study and I am a musician and put together a group of former professional musicians who wanted to give their life and talents for the Glory of God. Then it happened. Preparing for a talk on troubled marriages, I opened up about my infidelity. It brought immense pain to my wife and when more of the truth came out, it did great damage even though it had been over 30 years ago and prior to my conversion.

I share this because St. Monica prayed and prayed and prayed for the conversion of her husband and her son, the great St. Augustine who was quite the sinner. Her prayers were answered in God’s time and they both came to know the Lord. I now pray greatly in the same manner. Our Sacrament has a feint heartbeat. It’s been 5 or 6 years, maybe longer since the truth came out. What hurts the most for me is the pain that I have caused her from not only the infidelity in breaking our covenant, our friendship, but also the lies to cover up the truth.

I trust in God. It may sound very smug to some as you read this, but I am at peace. I have learned more about love, responsibility, sacrifice and complete dependence on God because of this. I also suffer the agony of knowing what I have done and the pain I have caused to the person I love most in my life. I am not fearful of sharing this. What usually happens is that people forgive me, they try to help me to forgive myself, people want to give me advice of what I need to do to “fix” the situation and all kinds of things. Some can relate and some will say “once a cheater, always a cheater.”

To reiterate my point of sharing this is that St. Monica never gave up hope in Christ and neither will I. The Lord knows my heart and my desires. In peace, I accept all the redemptive suffering He wills to give me. He suffered greatly for me, I will suffer greatly for Him. Unfortunately, a big part of my pain is watching the most beautiful person in your life, who loves Jesus with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, not be able to find peace in forgiving. And to think that every time she looks at me, it brings to mind my great sin.

I would like to think that St. Monica, her husband and St. Augustine are rejoicing greatly in heaven in the presence of Jesus. That is my hope for all of us that through all the sins of our lives, through God’s great love and divine mercy, we will one day rejoice with Him for all eternity. St. Monica, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Monica and My Great Sin

Pray For Priests

I have been thinking about priests today. The scripture passages today stirred me in a way that is quite different than usual. I know the passages apply to me but “pray for priests” is the message that comes to mind and heart today.

Jesus gave everything for me. He came to serve, not to be served and He commanded His disciples to do the same. We expect a lot from our priests and they are tempted as we are but maybe in ways we could not imagine. We need them 24-7. No priest, no Mass. No Mass, no Eucharist. No Jesus, look at the mess our world is in. Matthew Kelly made an interesting comment saying that if he had to live on an island and could only take 5 people, he would make sure one of them was a priest.

St. Paul begins today’s passage from 1 Thessalonians saying “You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God.” Maybe that is what got me to thinking about priests. What an amazing calling they have accepted to shepherd people like me, a sinner who gets lost too often in my own selfishness.

Then I got to today’s Gospel from Matthew 23 and I thought about what it said in the context of being a priest as Jesus said…

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

That is a very sobering message for me personally. I cannot tell you how often I have tried to appear holy and knew inside I was not right with God. By the grace of God, I will continue to work to cleanse first the inside of my cup, so that the outside also may be clean. I would ask that we continue to pray for our priests, religious brothers and sisters and all who have been given authority to lead the church. May we also pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Thank you always for your consideration and prayers.

Pray For Priests

Sharing The Truth In Love

St. Paul told the Thessalonians in today’s first reading some important concepts that I must continue to grow in. First, in how I should speak “not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts.” Secondly, to not seek “praise from men.” And third, when I share myself or the Gospel, to have affection and be “gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.”

I am still learning how to share with others. I am not an apologist, though it interests me greatly, but I am a lover of Jesus Christ who calls me to love all my brothers and sisters in Christ. So here are a couple of the mistakes I have made in my journey.

  1. I am on fire for Jesus so I want to jam all my new-found knowledge down your throat because I want you to be excited like I am excited. If you are not, I will pound you with some scripture I have memorized to impress you so that you will know I know what I’m talking about rather than just being me on fire and you wondering why I am so doggone happy and ask me why!
  2. When I speak or write, I say what I think you want to hear or what I think you need to know rather than sharing honestly who I am and what I believe with great love, understanding and compassion.

I have come a long way and have a long way to go. But I have to say, this world is a mess and my little world is going to get a lot messier if I do not share my life and have honest dialogues about God’s truth with those I speak. There is only one truth and that is Jesus Christ. I’ve made so many mistakes in my journey and continue making them today. But by God’s grace, I am more aware of my weaknesses and my strengths, my gifts and my shortcomings. That’s why I need others and others need me. God made us for each other.

I have recently read some great blogs from some, who I consider, very honest Christians. They inspire me by sharing their lives openly and they really touch my heart. I promise myself to do the same each blog, not because I am a great sinner or desiring saint, but because sharing the truth in love glorifies God, and that is my hope always.

Sharing The Truth In Love