The Community of My Heart

“…I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace…how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God”. Phil 1:7, 8-11

This excerpt from the First Reading has been on my mind (and in my heart) for a very long time. I have shared with many that I hold them in the community of my heart. It’s a phrase a spiritual director shared with me during one of our first meetings. It has become part of my prayer life, to intentionally pray for those in the community of my heart. This community includes and is not limited to: family, friends, mentors, teachers, all those who have had direct contact with me throughout my life, including those who have been part of daily life encounters, work projects, prayer lists, the situations and underlying issues for which I have said I would think and pray.

I do not take things off my prayer list. My list becomes part of the community of my heart which encompasses all of His creation. This is echoed in the Psalm Response, “How great are the works of the Lord.” It’s a natural segue into the Gospel Reading from Luke in which Jesus, again, asks the Pharisees and those dining with him, “….Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath… who among you, if your son or ox falls in a cistern would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

Who among you would not reach out to a brother, sister, or any member of the human family, to give food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, whatever assistance that is needed?  We are all related. We are called to increase in love and in knowledge of every kind of perception to discern what is of value in our life, our world, for all our sisters and brothers.

Pray with me as St. John Paul II did with these words:

Oh God, You are our Creator. You are good and Your mercy knows no bounds. To You arises the praise of every creature.

Oh God, You have given us an inner law by which we must live. To do Your will is our task. To follow Your ways is to know peace of heart. To You we offer our homage.

Guide us on all the paths we travel upon this earth. Free us from all the evil tendencies which lead our hearts away from Your will. Never allow us to stray from You.

Oh God, judge of all humanity, help us to be included among Your chosen ones on the last day.

Oh God, Author of peace and justice, give us true joy and authentic love, and a lasting solidarity among peoples.

Give us Your everlasting gifts. Amen.

Contact the author

Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

Grow Strong in the Lord

Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power.

According to tradition, the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome (around AD 62). While in Rome, I was blessed to visit the restored “house” where Paul was held under house arrest. Thinking of the great Apostle confined in those rooms, I can imagine this giant of a man whose missionary activity had touched the entire then-known world reflecting upon the purpose of life and the larger mission of Christianity in the world. I resonate, at least in a small way, in a similar time in my life in the weeks and months after my stroke when I had to come to grips that without God’s permission I could do nothing: I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t walk. As super as I had thought I was, busy, effective, bursting with ideas and energy, in reality I learned I was totally dependent on God.

People who are blessed with the ability to get things done, to envision the future, to organize and administrate—all of which were gifts Paul himself had received and which sustained him in his years of labor for and in Christ—know intimately that lightning-quick inner movement that constructs a roadmap for arriving at solutions and resolutions to issues when they arise. I like to think that Paul, in this reading, is showing us what he had gradually learned about living “in the Lord,” a truth that makes all activity fruitful.

He is telling the Ephesians and us, “Be empowered through your union with Christ, draw from Christ—and not yourself—the boundless strength he provides. For our strength as Christians cannot subsist outside of Christ. In Philippians he had written: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (cf. 4:13)

This is important to note because the armor which is described in the following verses as our proper attire is therefore of divine workmanship. The armor of God is given to us. It isn’t something we take up by creating it or choosing it ourselves. A soldier wears armor to protect and defend himself, whereas the armor that is described by Paul here, which God gives to us, consists of virtues which are useful for 1) defending us against the attack of the enemy, and 2) giving us strength in battle against the skillful, experienced, and malicious enemies which are the devil and his angels. A soldier’s armor protects him, but is powerless to strengthen him on the battlefield.

Therefore, put on the armor which God himself provides you: truth, righteousness and integrity. Run with stability and promptness to announce the Gospel of peace. Cover yourself with faith and wield the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you can stand against the wiles of the evil one with your natural strength.

“In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion….”

No matter how virtuous we think we have become, how zealous we as missionaries, ministers, and Christians may be, how fantastic our projects and successful our plans, Paul is calling us through prayer to jettison self-reliance and to rely wholly on the Spirit’s enablement. Prayer is the very air we breathe. Prayer keeps us spiritually alive. Prayer makes us one with Christ.

What the Church and the world need today are people mighty in this battle of spiritual warfare, people who are filled with the Spirit and who run to do the Spirit’s bidding. Without prayer, to return to the imagery of the soldier’s armor, we shall be defeated in battle. And if we look to God in prayer, we shall triumph in the battle against every evil.

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

A Holy Temple in the Lord

The union between Christ and the Church is, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32). For that reason, he and the other New Testament writers used a number of descriptive images to give a multifaceted picture of the Church: it is at once the household or family of God, the kingdom of David, the kingdom of heaven, as well as the Body of Christ and a sacred temple. In our first reading taken from Ephesians 2, we see several such concepts used simultaneously: the Apostle Paul described “the household of God” not only as a kingdom with citizens, but also as a sacred structure “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

In the Gospel reading we see Jesus in the act of prayerfully building his Church, his temple, by picking out those who would form its foundation, the Apostles (Lu. 6:12-16). These men are the only people in the New Testament to whom Jesus gives the authority to “bind and loose” as is evident in Matthew 18:18: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Binding and loosing referred to the unique authority that had previously been held by the scribes and Pharisees.

Even though Jesus gave intense critiques of the personal character of the scribes and Pharisees, we can see in Matthew 23:2-3 that he still respected their teaching office and expected his followers to do the same: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” This expression, “to sit on the seat of Moses,” meant that the scribes and Pharisees inherited Moses’ authority to bind and loose; in other words, as his successors, they had the power to interpret the Law.

Therefore, when Jesus gave his apostles the authority to bind and loose, he was transferring the authority of the scribes and Pharisees to the twelve and establishing new offices invested with teaching authority. The same Holy Spirit who would inspire the infallible authorship of the New Testament, became the divine guarantee that what was “bound on earth” would truly be “bound in heaven.”

We can easily observe this understanding of apostolic succession at work in the early Church by examining the writings of Christians such as Irenaeus, who had been taught by Polycarp, who in turn had been taught by the Apostle John; also, Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, who had heard from John himself. For their writings and more, check out The Faith of the Early Fathers (Vol. 1) by William Jurgens.

Ultimately, apostolic succession explains why Jesus would represent the Apostles as the stones upon which he would build his temple. Through the authority of their office, the Church was given divine protection from error and the unwavering certainty that despite the turbulence of life’s storms, God’s will would prevail.

Contact the author

Nikol M. Jones is in her final year at Franciscan University’s Master’s in Theology and Christian Ministry program where it has been her joy to learn how to integrate the tools of modern biblical scholarship with the principles of biblical interpretation set forth by the Catholic Church in the service of the Word of God. She also has a passion for creating artwork and children’s books that honor the life and teachings of Christ. When she’s not studying or painting, she utilizes her writing and organizational skills as an administrative assistant. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikol-m-jones-4b9893140/.

Doing a Lot with Just a Little

Have you ever Google searched a mustard seed? Or have you ever seen one in person? Those things are pretty dang tiny (and even that might be an understatement).

That’s why I’ve always found today’s Gospel – and others like it – intriguing. The size of a mustard seed doesn’t lend itself to much. You wouldn’t expect much out of it upon sight. That’s where the intrigue lies, for when a mustard seed is planted, it grows into a large plant.

Today’s Gospel draws the comparison of the Kingdom of Heaven to the large bush that grows from a single mustard seed. The bush was large and fully-grown, attracting the birds of the sky to come and rest in its branches.

As I read those verses and try to imagine what Jesus must have meant with this parable, it struck me that our own understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven is much like a single mustard seed – small, to say the least. Yet, when the mustard seed is planted in the ground, something comes forth much larger and more beautiful than expected.

We have no earthly understanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like and yet we are called to make the Kingdom of Heaven present here on earth. How can we make the Kingdom of Heaven known when we can’t even wrap our minds around it ourselves? It is certainly greater than any human words or comparison could ever hold. Instead, we entrust our mustard seed-like understanding to the Lord, plant the seed and work, allowing Him to take care of the rest. Eventually, one day, when we have finished our mission here on earth (and finished it well), we will be rewarded by our own presence in the Kingdom of Heaven.

My take from all of this is that the Lord can do a lot of good with just a little. Just a little what, though? A little faith. A little hope. A little love. A little trust, a little time and a little space in our lives and hearts. That’s all we need to give Him – though, hopefully, we end up giving the Lord more than that!

If you aren’t sure where to start, ask God to show you. That’s giving Him a little bit of room to work in your life while also giving Him a little bit of your faith.

Contact the author

Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

The Compassion of Christ

“Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” 

In the first reading we hear Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians to be compassionate with one another. He calls them, and in turn calls us, to be imitators of Christ in everything we do. What St. Paul is urging us to do is not easy. Immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, and suggestive talk are all actions that we should rebuke. Rather than participating in deeds that distance us from Christ and His Kingdom, we are called to be thankful and compassionate. We are to live as children of light.

In today’s Gospel, Christ teaches us how to be compassionate. When he sees a woman who was “crippled by the Spirit” he calls out to her and heals her of her infirmity. In doing so, he angers the leader of the synagogue. The leader of the synagogue accuses Christ of not keeping holy the Sabbath because He cured the woman. Christ then rebukes him by calling him a hypocrite. Christ’s reasoning took me a very long time to understand. He asks the leader of the synagogue, “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” I thought Christ was comparing the work they do with their animals to the work He did in curing the crippled woman. What I now understand is that Christ sees the watering of animals as compassionate. One would not deny an animal sustenance on the Sabbath in order to keep the day holy. Rather, one would be compassionate to the animal and grant the animal its need for water and food. In the same way, Christ did not deny the woman the compassion of healing her from her infirmity. By watering the animals their physical needs are met. In curing the woman, not only are her physical needs met but her spiritual needs are as well because we are told it was Satan who kept her in slavery and caused her infirmity. Curing the woman from her physical infirmity shows us that Christ came to cure us of our spiritual infirmities.

May we be Christ-like in our compassion toward others and may we always look for and find the face of Christ in one another.

Contact the author

Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

A Blueprint for Charity

As we continue to hear of the difficult questions posed to Jesus, we come to the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). The second, also essential, follows close behind: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). We ought to honor God in the public square, attending Mass, defending core teachings of the Faith, and avoiding the idols of our time. In addition, we ought to care for the poor and needy, offering our time, talent, and treasure to be present to the disadvantaged. Often, we focus more on one or the other of these commandments. After all, worship and charity seem to be quite different. This focus is good to the extent that we truly put the Great Commandment, love of God, first. Even so, it is easy to miss the unifying connection between these two commandments: charity.

The Catechism, in paragraph 1822, refers to charity as the virtue “by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” Both commandments, touching God and neighbor, are encompassed by this virtue. Just as the Great Commandment takes primacy in Jesus’ response, so does love of God take primacy in the virtue of charity. Even love of neighbor, while seemingly centered on our brothers and sisters, is ultimately done for love of God. When we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we love all people for his sake, recognizing that the Lord wants his creation to flourish.

Our readings give us a sort of blueprint for this understanding of charity. Our reading from Exodus gives us a foundation: charity cannot exist in us without justice. Justice, at its core, means giving the other person what is due to him. If we wrong the widow, the orphan, the poor, or our neighbor, we cannot possibly move forward in acting out of love for them. We must treat all people as they deserve, created in God’s image and likeness. This is the minimum, asked of the Hebrews immediately upon being freed from Egyptian slavery. Still drawn to idolatry, they were expected to be just.

Once we learn to be just, as even the pagans were, we turn our thoughts to God. The Psalmist expresses this beautifully, proclaiming God as his strength, rock, fortress, and deliverer. “The LORD lives and blessed be my rock! Extolled be God my savior” (Ps 18:47). We proclaim in reply, “I love you, Lord, my strength.” All charity, as seen in the Catechism, begins with love of God. As Love himself, the Lord is the perfect object of our love. He gives us all that we need and even more, equipping us for a life of joy. Throughout our trials and triumphs, he is present. Beyond what he gives us, God is always worthy to be praised and loved, perfect and wonderful as he is. God is to be loved with all of our strength. This is why love of God is the Great Commandment.

Saint Paul shows us the flowering of charity in our second reading. Having practiced justice and the love of God, we can perfect our love of neighbor. The Thessalonians impress Paul precisely in showing this charity: not only did they hear the words of the Lord and implement them, but they spread them far and wide. They cared so deeply for their brothers and sisters that they could not bear to see them deprived of the grace of God. They strove to bring all to Christ, both to fulfill God’s will and to serve their neighbor. Their evangelization was an act of love for neighbor, but it was done out of love for God. This unity of the commandments is exactly what charity calls for. We practice justice, love God in himself, and love God in our neighbor, all at the same time.

Often, we hear gospel passages such as this one and remain at the surface. It is fairly easy to imagine what Jesus means when he tells us to love God and to love our neighbor. However, when we read in context and look for the depth of God’s Word, we can see the riches of a life of charity, lived in union with God and in communion with our neighbors.

Contact the author

David Dashiell is the Associate Director of Liturgy for a group of parishes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he is not spending time with his wife and infant daughter, he is writing on philosophy and theology for various online publications. You can find some of these in Crisis Magazine and the Imaginative Conservative, and you can contact him at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

Will You Be Found Ready When the Time for Reaping Comes?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus issues a frightening warning to all those gathered around Him. He foretells eternal damnation for those who will not repent. Blood will be spilled. Souls will be condemned by their actions. People will perish. But He does not give His warning without also providing hope.

There is still time. Damnation is not inevitable. After issuing his warning, Jesus provides a parable that offers hope to those listening. He tells the story of a fig tree that would not provide fruit. When the owner of the orchard saw its lack of fruit, he desired to cut it down. But the gardener spoke up on behalf of the plant, asking for one year before the fig tree should be cut down. In that time, the gardener would cultivate the ground and fertilize it, giving the tree the best chance of bearing fruit. If at the end of the year fruit had not been produced, the gardener would cut down the tree.

We are each that fig tree in the parable, and the one year of cultivation is the span of years that we will live on this earth. That is the time that we have to be cultivated and fertilized. That is the time that we have to embrace our salvation. Jesus Christ is our gardener, our defender, but even He must work within the bonds of our allotted time. We must embrace our salvation while it is ours to accept. Once we have passed, there is no turning back. If we have not accepted our salvation by then, it will be too late. We will perish. We will be uprooted and cast away.

We don’t know how many years we have been given, so the time for conversion is now. Jesus Christ has already provided us the means to be saved. We just need to accept it. The ground has been fertilized and cultivated. Christ’s blood and water have been poured out from the cross, watering the ground. He has given us His Word in the Scriptures and His very Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We just need to take and read, take and eat, take and drink, and we will be saved.

Jesus Christ has provided the cultivation of the ground where we grow. Our souls can be fed. Now we must prepare for the harvest. We must bear fruit. We must open ourselves up to God’s Word, repent, and receive the Bread of Life. Christ is preparing us for the harvest. Will you be found ready when the time for reaping comes?

Contact the author

Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.

Signs of the Times

Jesus points to the fact that his listeners (and his detractors) could certainly interpret indications of oncoming weather – clouds mean rain, wind from the south means heat – and he suggests that interpreting indications of spiritual realities should be just as easy. But is it?

Spiritual indicators are, on the one hand, just as obvious as weather indicators; they are, on the other hand, just as likely to be misinterpreted. The “secret” to interpreting properly is in the dispositions of our own hearts and minds.

The Jewish people should have known the signs of the Messiah’s coming, announced for centuries by the prophets. St. John the Baptist had paved a clear way, announcing that the Kingdom was at hand. Jesus himself was performing miracles of healing and restoration, preaching the coming of the Kingdom among them, and announcing (sometimes subtly, sometimes more clearly) that he was the One sent by the Father. And yet, those in authority did not want to accept these signs. Jesus called them out, making clear their reasons: they were not sincere in their intentions, they did not have the necessary good will, they had a personal interest in protecting the status quo because they liked the power and prestige they enjoyed. This roaming rabbi did not promise to overturn the rule of the Romans or restore the earthly Kingdom they looked for, and so they could not accept that Jesus was who he said he was.

When Jesus says to them (and to us), “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” he is pointing to the truth that God is always revealing the Truth, revealing His Will, revealing the way for us, if only we open ourselves to it with sincerity, humility, and love. IN CHRIST, we can know the Will of God, understand our position in the universe (which is infinitesimally small), and therefore appreciate our position in the Heart of the Father (which is disproportionately large). It is here, placing ourselves in our correct position of universal smallness and ontological largeness – here where we know that despite the fact that our existence on this planet is short and limited in scope, we have been called to the magnificence of life within the very Heart of God – that we are truly open to see God at work in our lives and in the world.

So when Jesus says we should be able to judge for ourselves what is right, and what is happening, what he is really inviting us to do is to humble ourselves before the objective Truth that IS, and open ourselves fully to the Spirit’s creative activity in human life. In prayer and immersion in the Word, we can enter more deeply into a relationship with God, and begin to hear the beating Heart of the Father.

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

If You Set the World Ablaze, You’re Going to Tick People Off

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.” – Jesus

Most people would not smack books out the hands of a cripple at the library. Most people won’t cuss out the girl at McDonalds because they got an apple pie instead of a pumpkin pie. Most people quietly tolerate Facebook posts they disagree with and scroll on, avoiding the social brawl about to happen in the comment section.

Most people want to be known as a “good person.”

Very few of us want to be seen as jerks.

It’s a part of our humanity to avoid conflict and want to be liked by people around us. This instinct helps keep societies stable. Unfortunately, it also makes us poor Christians.

What’s interesting is that Jesus came to the world to rock the boat. He turned everything on its head. So much so, he was crucified for it.

And here’s the crazy part: Jesus wasn’t “nice.”

Nice is a shallow adjective that is easily misinterpreted to be Christian. Christ loves all people, but it’s because of his love that he has to put his foot down. A “nice” person does nice things for their own ego and because they are concerned with how people perceive them.

Christ creates division.

Modern Catholics are very quick to go with the flow. There’s often an expectation of tolerance and niceness when we think about the modern day Catholic. This is not at all the case. We are supposed to love others but if others persist in evil we cannot condone such behavior.

Humans are given Free Will. Ideally, we use our Free Will to choose the good, but in order for it to be a truly Free Will we must be able to choose the evil. If evil is not an option, is our Will free?

If you have never felt left out or at odds with non-believers there’s a very good chance that you are not living out the Catholic faith that Jesus intended. Jesus himself told us that division would happen. Jesus himself lived the Gospel so loudly that he was killed for it. Have you come even close to being killed for your belief in the Gospel?

It doesn’t have to be a literal death; it is more often a social death. A death that involves being unfriended on Facebook or getting called a “prude.”

If friends believe abortion is acceptable, we should love them, but we must show our dissent. We might lose our friends because of it.

As Jesus did, we should be friends with the sinners, “prostitutes”, and “tax collectors” but we also must share the Gospel and urge them to “sin no more” (in the most loving way possible).

To tolerate sin is failing in our Christian Faith. Being Christian has nothing to do with being nice and everything to do with dying for your faith. We are not a faith of subtlety.

Contact the author

Patrick produces YouTube content for young Catholics on Catholic Late Night and Overt TV. He loves using humor to share the Truth of the Catholic faith with anyone who will listen. He resides currently in Chattanooga, TN and is a parishioner at The Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. Patrick graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville with a degree in Communication Arts and a Minor in Marketing.

Let’s Wait…Or Not

If you have lived as long as I have and had a few jobs in your life, perhaps you have worked with people that as soon as the boss walked out the door they let their “hair down.”  In other words, they would do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do when he/she was present. Sound familiar? God forbid the boss would come in at a time when there was an enormous amount of goofing off going on. There would be consequences! This is the kind of theme in today’s Gospel of Luke.

How much time do you spend thinking about your mortality? I promise you, the older you get, the more you think about it! (Today is my 75th birthday). Actually, at this stage of my life, I think more about getting closer and closer to God than about when I am going to die.

Secularism has crept into churches all over the world. If you are or were a regular church goer you might have noticed that in many cases attendance has gone down. And I’m talking about before Covid-19. And now it’s getting worse. There is a visible force attempting to destroy Christianity here and around the earth. It shows up in our church big time. Very sad. Some feel that since Christ has not shown up after 2000 years, then perhaps he never will, or worse yet, that he was never really God. I have heard some say that there is no proof that God exists. Some people actually think that God exists simply because they believe he exists. Sorry to those people, God exists whether we believe it or not.

That brings us back to the surprise party. That day that Jesus decides to come back. Remember, it will be like a thief coming in the middle of the night!  Malachi says, “Oh, that great and terrible day.” It will be great for believers but terrible for unbelievers. Does it give you chills? It does me! It may be a time to look at our spiritual walk.

  • Am I spending more time with the Lord?

For those of you that struggle with silence, that was number one on my list many years ago. When I started college, I would have rather had a bad roommate than none at all. I could not handle silence at all. My wife helped cure me of that problem. Soon after we were married she would get up at 5:00 AM to spend time with the Lord. She was a great role model for me. If you are of a contemplative nature, then sitting before the Blessed Sacrament is like a slice of heaven. Lectio Divina is a wonderful way for you to widen that pathway between you and God. You will be amazed. If you don’t have access to a church or chapel try praying a daily rosary or a divine mercy chaplet or both! Read books on the lives of the saints to see how others overcame great difficulties to become holy.

  • Am I helping others in need?

If you are stumped on this one, then see Matthew 25. Jesus gives a great list of those things that you and I can do. It will make him smile. Joy comes with giving! If you are still stumped, ask the Lord in your evening prayer what he wishes you to do. You will get an answer!

Serve with joy!

Contact the author

Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the parents of eight children and twenty-nine grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.