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|Posted on May 23, 2015 at 12:04 PM||comments (709)|
Our Country has a tapestry of graves containing the remains of warriors who have fought and died for our freedom. Each grave holds someone's son or daughter, possibly a sibling, father, mother, husband or wife.
Many of us see Memorial Day as a three day weekend and the start of Summer - a time to celebrate. May we take time to be especially kind to others this weekend? Rarely do we know that the person in line at the grocery store lost a son in Afghanistan, or that the old man driving way to slow in front of us saw his best friend killed beside him at Normandy. We do not see the images of war that haunt men and women sitting next to us at the movies or in church.
This weekend and throughout the year, let compassion be foremost in our minds when we meet strangers. They may be the parents or children of heroes who shed their blood for our freedom.
God bless our veterans and all who serve to protect our freedom.
Fr. Joe, O.C. Carm.
|Posted on April 18, 2015 at 1:55 PM||comments (42)|
There is debate among the Christian community whether one can lose their salvation. Certainly in the Roman Catholic Church the doctrine of mortal sin is an example of this concept. Yet, if we live in fear of losing fellowship with God, we let Satan win. There is little the Evil One wants more than to make us believe we are not beloved by God - that our Father is on the verge of rejecting us at any given time.
While always understanding the immensity and glory and omnipotence of God, we do well to remember that He loves us so intimately that He has counted every hair on our heads. We have the joy of knowing we not only have fellowship with the Holy Trinity which will never be broken, we also have the privilege of living in confidence that our Father is continually loving us more deeply than we can ever understand.
In reality, just as the Holy Spirit moves in us to love God in the first place, the Holy Spirit will keep that flame of love alive throughout our lives - even when we stray or rebel. We feel in our hearts the separation between us and God, but the Devil magnifies it to the point where he wants us to believe there is a chasm between us and God that cannot be crossed. What we must remember is Jesus' promise that He will never leave or forsake us.
Christian, rest assured it is God who brought you to Himself, and it is God who will keep you in His heart. We are blessed to be His children forever.
|Posted on March 5, 2015 at 9:09 PM||comments (63)|
For the last several months we have been aware of the persecution of Christians by ISIS in the Middle East. For decades Christians have been persecuted in Asia and in African countries. And yet, Christianity is thriving in these areas.
I often think we in the West (I live in California) have a very shallow understanding of what it means to be a Christian. We are concerned over which church has the best worship music, the shortest sermons, and the most people attending. In some ways, the church we attend is "trendy." And we often confuse going to church with being a Christian.
If we read the Epistles in the New Testament, Paul, James, and Jude all introduce themselves as "Bondservants" of Christ. They are willingly slaves to Jesus. They know the gospel message and have no "weasel-clauses" about their dedication to Christ. In today's vernacular, they are "all in."
Perhaps if Christians had to endure a basic training similar to our military forces, we would understand the meaning of commitment to Jesus. Our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church know the extent of what it means to live and die for their faith. We have so much to learn from them - those who meet secretly in homes or isolated places. Those who treasure a Bible, even if they cannot read it. Those who love the Lord so much that they are willing not only to die for their faith, but to watch their children die at the hands of demonic oppression in the form of terrorists.
When we go to church on any given Sunday, let us come radiating Christ living inside of us. Let us leave invigorated to share the gospel in-season and out of season. Let us, like Paul, when we find ourselves imprisoned (political correctness, fear of looking foolish or insulting someone) love Jesus so much as to share the good news of salvation with those who are intimidating us. Compared to having a sword slicing into the back of your neck, a fear of rejection seems very trivial.
|Posted on August 27, 2013 at 12:44 PM||comments (38)|
My lifelong dream of becoming a Catholic Priest was fulfilled on August 24th, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri when +Bishop Thomas McKenna, presiding Bishop of the Celtic Rite of the Old Catholic Church conferred upon me Holy Orders.
The Celtic Rite allows priests to be married. so my great joy was to have my wife, Debbie, present and supportive at my ordination. And to be ordained by such a kind and holy man as +Bishop Tom was a special blessing. Each time he laid hands on me and when he anointed my hands with chrism, I felt the Holy Spirit touch me in a powerful way.
Please pray that I will serve faithfully in the duties of the priesthood.
|Posted on March 8, 2013 at 5:14 PM||comments (61)|
The Joy of Spiritual Discipline
Modern American culture, and increasingly within the walls of Evangelical Churches, finds a wide chasm between “discipline” and “joy.” Spiritual discipline often brings to mind such exercises as reading the Bible in one yearand (to a less comfortable extent) tithing.
In this blog I will briefly discuss the origins, purpose, necessity and benefits of spiritual discipline.
We can begin in Genesis, chapter four, where Cain and Abel offer their sacrifices to God and tithing has its origins. While we can see Abel’s gift as pleasing to God, the fruit of his gift does not appear evident when Cain kills his brother. Perhaps the joy in the discipline of giving with a pure heart was that Abel was the first to enjoy being absent from the body and present with the Lord (2Cor. 5:8).
Throughout the Bible God calls His people to acts of spiritual discipline. Abraham was challenged with sacrificing his own son (Gen. 22), Moses led the people of God through the Exodus, David exercised tremendous spiritual discipline throughout his life, and we find Jesus fasting and praying in the desert (Luke, 4). Additionally every true follower of Christ from the Apostles through today was faced with spiritual challenges.
One of the more useful disciplines in studying Scripture is contemplation. If we are to be enlightened by Him, we must stay focused on the God of the Bible. We know from Jesus experience in the wilderness (Luke, chapter 4) that Satan is present to twist the Gospel and suggest a false version of it to satisfy our desires. In contemplation, we must still be wearing the “full armor of God” (Eph.6:13-17).
Spiritual disciplines are a means of preparing us to be like Christ in daily life. They serve to bring us to an awareness of the Holy Spirit keenly working in us and interceding for us. They help us to die to ourselves and live for Christ. We have only touched on the Spiritual disciplines and have not acknowledged the great contributions of the Desert Fathers, including Antony of Egypt, St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, the Waldensians, the Cistercians, and a host of others who pioneered spiritual discipline in its various forms.
A person in love receives great joy in the discipline of knowing the one who touches his heart. We have a great Lover of our souls, and we do well to strive to know Him intimately.
|Posted on March 1, 2013 at 9:57 PM||comments (38)|
“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that shall I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple” Psalm 27:4.
When I first fell in love with this verse, I isolated it from the rest of the Psalm. After quoting it a few years ago, a friend pointed out how it was sandwiched in between adversities. It wasn’t until today that I reflected, meditated, and contemplated this verse in the context of the entire psalm.
Verse four is an anchor in the midst of a personal storm. My life has been a series of ups and downs as I’m sure we all have experienced. For David, he reflects on the Lord’s faithfulness in the past, he looks forward to the Lord delivering him from his enemies, he pleads for God not to abandon him, he shares that if it weren’t for the Lord, he would be thrown into despair, and he concludes that waiting – trusting – in the Lord is the key to staying firm in faith and courage.
More than ever I love this verse. Having a conviction that I will be present with the Lord at the end of this mortal life, the passage pulls me back from times of turmoil, confusion and despair and compels me to look forward to gazing into the Presence of God with great joy. Unlike Isaiah in Is.6:5 or John’s vision of heaven in Revelation, I am confident that because of the Sacrifice of the Cross, I will not tremble when confronted by the Holiness of God, but will be joyfully united with my Father in heaven.
Daily I am confronted with challenges. This exercise compels me to focus on what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story.” These troubles are passing. Heaven and “dwelling in the house of the Lord is both a future assurance and a discipline I can embrace “all the days of my life.”
|Posted on December 2, 2012 at 9:19 PM||comments (35)|
Today begins the Advent season for the Celtic Rite Old Catholic Church (CROCC). It is, quite simply, what we make of it.
As Celtic Carmelites, the Advent season is a holy time to contemplate the many events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. In the coming days, I hope to comment on the holy angel delivering Mary the message of her role as mother of the Savior. We can consider Joseph's reaction and obedience. Surely the dusty trip to Bethlehem and disappointment in not finding suitable lodging can take a great deal of contemplation.
For today, I'd like to consider a heavenly aspect. Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity is seen in isolated instances in the Old Testament having "flesh and blood" encounters with God's people. In Advent, we can consider Jesus preparing to leave His Heavenly union with His Father and entering through the veil between heaven and earth to live among us.
How can we understand in human terms the grief Jesus experienced in separating Himself from intimate Divine Love between Father and Son in order to bring Divine Love to a people who have become so unkind to one another. Whether we believe in "original sin" or not, humanity has wandered far from Paradise. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is preparing to bring us home - not only through His sinless example of the joy we can have on earth in fellowship with the Holy Trinity - but by sacrificing all for us. His very life on earth was one of service and love to all of us who can only grasp Divine Love in moments filtered through eyes too selfish to see it in all its glory.
Let us start this Advent season by praying for hearts that choose love over judgment. As Carmelites, we carry within us a zeal for the truth of the Gospels which need never be tempered, yet in those very Gospels is the source of pure love. May we share Christ's love consciously throughout this blessed time.
Brother Joe, CRO. Carm.
|Posted on October 23, 2012 at 9:16 AM||comments (46)|
Throughout history, theologians have debated the extent of "Original Sin" on the soul of man. St. Augustine was the champion of total depravity and mainstream churches have held to some degree of original sin in their doctrines.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the world has never been the same. We toil, suffer death, strife, sickness, loneliness, and a disharmony with nature. Yet it was God Himself who clothed Adam and Eve. It was God Himself who spoke to Cain after the death of Abel and marked Cain so that he would not be killed.
God is a God of relationship. He loves us so much as to send Jesus, His only Son, to save us from ourselves and re-establish an "Abba-Father" relationship with us. He is simply in love with us.
My grandson is two months old. When I look in his eyes - when I look in the eyes of any baby - I see the wonder of God. I can't imagine God seeing any of us as totally depraved from birth. I understand the verse "Yet Jacob have I loved; but Esau I have hated" in Malachi 1:3 shows a partiality of God towards Jacob. But we can not use this verse to defend original sin. If Esau was cursed with original sin, was Jacob spared?
In the Celtic tradition, we see God as looking over His creation - and especially mankind - and saying, "It is very good." (Genesis 1:31).
|Posted on September 3, 2012 at 5:26 PM||comments (48)|
Today in the United States we celebrate Labor Day. For many it is a day of rest from a grueling, fast-paced schedule. For others looking for work, it is bittersweet. We have deep within all of us the desire to be contributors to our family, community, and nation.
I read once that the second question men are asked at an introduction is, "what do you do?" For those unemployed, this question feels like a knife to the heart. Perhaps during this recession we can refrain from asking this sensitive question.
This weekend has been a mixture of rest and deadlines for me. My great joy is writing, yet I find it one of my most challenging endeavors. I love it so much, it intimidates me. To paraphrase Eric Liddell in the movie, Chariots of Fire, "When I write, I feel His pleasure."
Often, I do not write because I feel my offering to Him is woefully inadequate. It is during these times I must visit my childhood and remember giving my father a crayon drawing and his congratulating me on such a fine work of art.
When we bring our gifts, our labor, to God, we must consider all our efforts are measured by the love we pour into them. We will never achieve the quality of work He creates in an instant.
So, I must write for His pleasure and my joy. I encourage you to acknowledge the talent God has placed in your heart and nurture it as a gift of thanksgiving to Him.
|Posted on July 7, 2012 at 4:50 PM||comments (52)|
Living life with a deep and longing desire to be with the Holy Trinity in heaven (when God's purpose for us here is complete) helps keep us grounded in the turmoil life on earth inevitably sends our way.
Let us pray for the elderly who are confined to their homes or in convalescent centers. Let us pray they have assurance God has them in this season of their lives for a purpose, even if it is as simple as showing kindness to their caretakers.
If you have time and feel the good Lord directing you, stop by an elder-care home and bring a smile to the forgotten ones in our midst.
Br. Joe, CRO. Carm.