The Baptism Of The Lord

Place yourself at the scene: You see a small crowd gathered around a large, wild-looking man with hair and beard gone bushy – almost savage looking. He – John the Baptist – wears only a tunic made of camel and preaches that the Messiah is near. This John is an almost ferocious–looking creature, but people followed and listened, hungry for not simply spiritual direction but for the sorely-needed Chosen One. They follow this man, this preacher, to the Jordan River.

One by one, John baptizes them with water. He cautions them though: There is one coming who will baptize in water and the Holy Spirit. That is what we all need, because in that baptism is grace.

And one day, as John is preaching and baptizing, Jesus come to the Jordan. John halts: That is Him! That is the Lamb of God! He is the one who will take away our sins!

What does Jesus do? He doesn’t step up on higher ground and begin preaching. He doesn’t tell everyone that what John has said is right on target. No, he wades into the water, and is baptized.

This striking scene, that we celebrate today, gives us much to ponder. As Catholics, we too are baptized. And we are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit. This baptism (along with confirmation and Holy Orders) leaves an “indelible seal” upon us. That mark or seal actually changes us, and it’s permanent. We can’t undo it, even if we stop attending Mass, even if we declare ourselves a witch or warlock, even if … we are marked with the sign of Christ for all eternity. For children, it is the parents’ responsibility to nurture the faith of their child, to care for the child’s soul. As the child gets older, more and more of the responsibility for one’s relationship with God shifts to the individual, until that person reaches maturity. And each of us, when we dies, will need to account to God as to how and why we chose what we did for the care (or lack thereof) for our soul.

Jesus’ baptism was NOT a superhero movie scene. He did not enter the Jordan an “ordinary” man and emerge as a shining god or an all-powerful king ready to smash the Roman empire. No, it was a picture-perfect example of what we are to do. We need to seek the Lamb of God through trusted sources. We need to be humble enough to admit that we need help, that we need the grace God makes available to us. We need to strip off all the worldly things that hold us back from our beloved Father. Most importantly, we need to continuously seek ways to live out our baptismal promises: to reject Satan, to believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to live our faith as the Church teaches.

There are not “magicicians” or superpower heroes among the faithful. Instead, there are those who – every day – decide to live out their faith. As Father Bede Jarrett said, “Baptism doe not set us right, but, by the high privilege is affords, it gives us the power to set ourselves right.” And with the grace of baptism, so we must set ourselves right, every day.

tough times

How Can I Handle The Hard Times Better?

No one escapes it: the trials and tribulations of this life. It may look like some people never suffer. Glossy magazines and television shows that focus on “celebrity lifestyles” can make us feel as if we are living out a Dickens novel by comparison. But underneath all that glamour and shiny stuff, those folks have hard times too.

Maybe for you, it’s an illness. Perhaps it’s a sin you struggle with daily. It could be debt, or losing a job. Perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you, and grief has overtaken your life. It happens to everyone. As Catholics, we need to ask ourselves, “How can I handle the hard times better? What is there, in my faith life, that can prop me up?”

First, we have to know that God is not punishing us when we are sick or sorrowful. In John 9, Christ and his disciples pass by a man born blind. The disciples ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Notice that the disciples assume that someone must have done something terribly wrong, for this great burden to be laid on this man. But Jesus says no, there was no sin involved. The man’s suffering was so that God’s glory may be seen through this man. And Jesus cured him.

While Jesus may not cure every illness or problem, He will allow God’s grace to shine through, if we cooperate with Him. Let God know that you welcome Him into your life, even in the midst of suffering. If he wants to use you – even in your pain – allow Him to.

Have a sense of humor. Some of God’s best friends, the saints, were not immune to struggles, but many of them didn’t lose their sense of humor either. St. Theresa of Avila was one tough lady, a true prayer warrior. She also got malaria, had a hard time praying sometimes, and struggled with complaining about others. She also had great joy.

Once, when she was travelling to one of her convents, St. Teresa of Ávila was knocked off her donkey and fell into the mud, injuring her leg. “Lord,” she said, “you couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”

And the response in prayer that she heard was, “That is how I treat my friends.”

Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”

When you are feeling overwhelmed, share your troubles. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill t he law of Christ.” Sharing your problems with a friend in Christ may not solve anything, but knowing that our friend cares and will pray with us and for us can relieve us of much anxiety.

When tough times hit, our instinct may be to pray less. Maybe we are mad at God for allowing pain into our lives. Maybe we think, “I haven’t got time to pray; I’m too busy trying to straighten out this mess!” The fact of the matter is, when times are hard, we need to pray MORE. Maybe a lot more. Deacon Joseph Michalak suggests praying all the Psalms, because they “offer accounts of many struggles, and end with praising God.”

Volunteer. You might do it casually, such as making sure your elderly neighbor gets a ride to church every week, or maybe you’ll be more formal and join an organization. Either way, serving others gets us “outside of ourselves.” We stop focusing on our issues, and help meet others’ needs. Offering your time and talent to someone else can also help put your own struggles in perspective.

Never underestimate the power of the sacraments. We wouldn’t never expect our car to run with an empty gas tank. Well, “grace” is sort of gas for the soul. It’s God own life within us, and God’s grace is always sufficient for whatever situation we are in. Go to Mass as often as possible (understanding that one must attend Sunday Mass to remain in a state of grace.) Take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you are sick, in need of surgery or have a chronic illness, ask your priest for the Anointing of the Sick. Even if your are still stuck in a difficult situation, God’s grace will be a fortress for your and His faithfulness a protective shield. Trust in God and in His gift of grace.

Finally, don’t be ashamed or hesitant to ask for help. If your finances are a mess, get an expert to go over them with you. If you are sick and cannot keep up with things like housework or cooking, ask your parish for help. If you are struggling with an addiction, find a group in your area (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) where you can find support. You may be surprised at how your friends and family will rise to the occasion once you let them in. Don’t go it alone.

We have a God who knows our pains, our worries, our struggles. While Jesus never sinned, He carried all of our sins on the way to Calvary. He lost people He loved. His dearest friends betrayed Him and took off when He needed them most. He was misunderstood by many, and treated as if He were a criminal, although He’d done no wrong. He understands far more than we give Him credit for. Trust Jesus with your tough times. He will not fail you.

Body and Blood of Christ

The Solemnity Of The Body And Blood Of Christ: “I Am The Bread Of Life”

This year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (traditionally knows as Corpus Christi) on the final Sunday of May. Many parishes choose to process with the Eucharist – sometimes simply around the church or neighborhood, while others make longer treks. Regardless, this celebration makes known to all who see and hear a fundamental tenet of our faith: that Christ is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist.

Of course, this seems a bit crazy. It’s understandable how this could be a stumbling block for so many. How possibly could Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God-Made-Man, be “inside” that Host, that Chalice? Isn’t it just a piece of bread and some wine that we remember Jesus by? It’s just a reminder of Him and the Last Supper, right?


It is not “just” a piece of bread and some wine, or a memory of a long ago event. How can we be assured of this? How do we Catholics know this to be true? Because Christ Himself told us.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, John tells of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The vast crowd who came to hear Jesus’ preach were fed – astoundingly – with a very small amount of food. The next day, Jesus takes his disciples and gives them the teaching on the Bread of Life.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” (Jn. 6:35-40)

Now, the disciples were used to Jesus teaching in parables: the Kingdom of God is like, or it’s as if. But they could tell his tone was different here. They started squirming: How can this guy be bread? That’s not REALLY what He meant, is it?

And Jesus clarified:

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn: 6:48-51)

Well, that was it for some of the disciples. There was no doubting Jesus’ meaning: He wasn’t just saying “eat;” He was using the word for “gnaw.” He really meant eating His Body. And some of those disciples left. This was simply too outrageous.

Even today, these words of Christ are too outrageous for many Christians; they do not believe that Christ, at the Last Supper, fulfilled His words. We must, as Catholics, work to bring our Christian brothers and sisters into the fulness of faith. However, we cannot do that unless our own faith is formed. The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is an opportunity to deepen our own faith.

A few years ago, Pope Francis said this challenged us on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ:

[I]n adoring Christ who is really present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by him? Do I let the Lord who gives himself to me, guide me to going out ever more from my little enclosure, in order to give, to share, to love him and others?

Brothers and sisters, following, communion, sharing. Let us pray that participation in the Eucharist may always be an incentive: to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion and to share what we are with him and with our neighbour. Our life will then be truly fruitful.

As we look forward to this celebration, let us pray that we deepen our own faith, and then share this great treasure with others.

sorry for sins

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

One of the most controversial aspects of Catholicism is the Sacrament of Penance. The majority of the people outside the church don’t understand it, but neither do many inside the church. Why do we have to tell a priest our sins? Can’t we just tell God directly?

According to Fr. Eamon Tobin at, the Church requires us to go to confession, because despite our best efforts and the grace of baptism, we continue to sin against God and each other. But the most important reason

why the Catholic Church asks her members to confess their sins to a priest is simply because the Church has always believed that sin, however private, is a community affair. Every sin, however small, wounds the Body of Christ, the members of the Church. . . . When any of its members sin, they all suffer. Moreover, because my sins wound the community and diminish its effectiveness, reconciliation must include the community and not just God. In the confessional, the priest is the representative of God and of the community. In the confessional, the priest represents the whole Christ, the Head (Jesus) and the members (the Church).

We would like to think that our sins go unnoticed or are unseen. We are like the child who steals a piece of candy from a store, sure that no one will ever notice. Or we become the rationalizing adolescent who thinks to herself, “Hey, it’s a big store – they have lots of money. They won’t miss one pair of earrings.”

What we must realize in order to mature in our faith life is that each of our sins – even if they go unnoticed, unseen, hidden away – still harm us and others. That girl who makes a habit of shoplifting becomes an untrustworthy friend and employee. A man addicted to porn in private ends up distancing himself from his wife and family. Imagine the wounds of the Body of Christ: not necessarily the grave wounds of the cross, but the millions and millions of tiny wounds we inflict upon the Body of Christ every day because of our sin.

Lent is the perfect time to got to confession, especially if you have not been in awhile. (Even if “awhile” is years. Or decades. It’s okay.) The Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops have given us this guide to the sacrament and instructions on how to go to confession.

Remember that no matter what you are feeling, God is waiting for you with great joy. He wants the opportunity to unburden you. He longs to hear that you are sorry for misusing the gifts He’s given to you, and most of all, He wants to tell you, “You are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”