What next?

So you know Jesus, and you’re working on making Christ the center of your life? This was common in the early Church, so for the last bible study of the year I left Sts. John and Peter’s letters give us encouragement:

2 John 4-10 – Love one another, follow the commandments, be wary of deceivers. What are some of the difficulties that we face as Christians? How can we overcome them?

1 Peter 2:11-17 – Put God first. Why is it important to be subject to human institutions? How is this balanced with living as free men?

1 Peter 3:8-22 – We are called to persevere in doing what is right, even when it can cause us to suffer. Jesus gave us this example.

1 Peter 4:1-11 – Avoid sin and remain in love. Remember, this is not so that we can judge others.

1 Peter 4:12-19 – Rejoice if you are reproached. Remember, this is an opportunity to glorify God. How can we maintain a cool head while others are attacking us?

Some inspiration:

Jeremiah 29:11-14 – God has big plans for each of us. Remember, are our plans based on what others expect of us, or what glorifies God the most?

Romans 8:18-39 – Everything that sucks about life is because of sin, anyways. Heaven is going to be wayyy better.

Since it’s the end of the year, if I was going to leave you all with a couple bits of advice:

  1. Pray every day. Even Jesus needed to.
  2. Find some friends who will support you in your faith journey. Nearly all great saints came in twos and threes.
  3. Live life. Go out of your way for others.
  4. Don’t listen to the devil when he gives you doubts, tells you that you can’t make a difference, and tells you that God doesn’t care about you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask God for what you need. We’re not perfect. Some days we need Him to tell us that He loves us. Some days we need emotional healing. Just because we’re men doesn’t mean that we don’t need help.

No Time Like the Present

Two of my friends have passed on to heaven in the past month.

College kids. Wow. And totally out of the blue. Praise God for faith. I can’t help but think of the divine mercy image and repeat to myself “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Jesus, I trust in Thee

It reminded me that the Christian faith isn’t just for the nice times. No, it’s actually more appropriate for when things ARE NOT okay. Because at times like this when I could easily despair that I lost them forever (with the agnostic outlook), I know through my faith that they are with God in heaven and that this isn’t the end but just the beginning of the glories of life!

Sometimes I forget that people die. But with all of the horrible events in the world news like the bombings in Boston, it’s helped me think more about the necessity to live every moment the way that I’d like to die.

I don’t think that I love enough. I don’t think that I go out of my way for others enough.

Life isn’t about picking the safest path, but about living in boldly to glorify God.

Pope Francis gave a fantastic reflection on this theme today:

“(The parable of the talents) makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts we have received from God and his return when he will ask us how we have used them. … This tells us that our awaiting the Lord’s return is a time of action … time to make the most of God’s gifts, nor for ourselves, but for him, for the Church, for others. [It is] the time in which to always seek to make good grow in the world. Particularly in this time of crisis, today, it is important not to be locked up in ourselves, removing our talents, our spiritual and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open ourselves, to be compassionate, to be attentive to others.”

I know that I could do a better job of honoring God with the gifts that He has given me. Often I am too selfish and think about what I want instead of what others need.

“In the square today there are many young persons. To you, who are at the beginning of life’s path, I ask: have you thought of the talents that God has given you? Have you thought of how to put them at the service of others? Don’t take your talents away! Bet on great ideals, those ideals that enlarge our hearts, those ideals of service that make your talents fruitful. We were not given life so that we might hold it back, jealously, for ourselves, but it was given to us so that we might offer it. Dear young persons, you have great souls! Don’t be afraid to dream of great things!”

Don’t be afraid to dream of great things! This was something that I have had some trouble with. For the longest time, I thought that my life had to follow a certain calculated “safe” path. But slowly God has revealed to me how I should not take my life for granted as much. I chose to become a Catholic Missionary, and I’m incredibly excited for that next adventure starting next year! In addition, I have seen many friends discern vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It’s been so inspiring to see their courage and love of God that inspires them to make such radical choices! But dreaming of great things isn’t just becoming a priest or missionary.. there are great people like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati who simply lived with charity towards all in the midst of regular lives!

“We will be judged by God on charity, on how we have love our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most needy of them. Of course, we always have to keep in mind that we are judged, we are saved by grace, by an act of God’s gratuitous love that always precedes us. Alone we can do nothing. Faith is foremost a gift that we have received.”

He’s saying this over and over again because I need to hear it over and over again. Often it is the hardest for me to be charitable in the “normal” times of life: making dinner with my housemates, riding the bus, conversations with family. I have to remember to treat those situations as opportunity to serve God as well.

“Looking to the final judgement must never frighten us, rather, it urges us to live the present better. With mercy and patience, God offers us this time so that we might learn every day to recognize him in the poor and the small, might strive for the good, and might be vigilant in prayer and love. The Lord, at the end of our existence and of history, may then recognize us as good and faithful servants.”

The Mercy of the Lord

Jesus heals the leper

As I read scripture and encounter Jesus, it amazes me how His words still challenge me, even though I’ve read and heard the same words time and again for years now. One of the biggest challenges that He presents me with is the call to be merciful.

Jesus’ entire life is an exhibit of the perfect mercy of God, and sometimes that is lost of me. Jesus didn’t have to come into the world, He didn’t have to become a man, He didn’t have to be born and grow up as a child, He didn’t have to give His life for us.

Besides all of those big points, there are all of the different examples of Jesus showing mercy to individuals:

  • The woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11
  • Healing the leper, Matthew 8:1-4
  • Calming the Storm at Sea, Matthew 8:23-27
  • Healing a paralytic, Matthew 9:1-7
  • Healing the blind man, Bartimaeus, Mark 10:46-52

There are countless instances like this, so I just listed a few. Jesus went out to the “poorest of the poor”, as Bl. Mother Teresa would call them. Jesus heard them call His name, and when they had faith and asked that He would heal them “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean”, and Jesus healed them. This ought to encourage us all to call on Jesus to heal us, whether it is a physical illness or not. We just must have faith, and ask.

But Jesus wanted more than just to have mercy on us all, He also wanted to teach us to follow His example. We see in Matthew 10:7-8, we see Jesus commissioning the Apostles, “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” We see a similar theme in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The most striking scene that I can think of is the washing of the disciples’ feet, where Jesus said,

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” – John 13:12-15

The challenge for us is to be humble enough to put others before ourselves. This means everyone: even when it is inconvenient, when it is uncomfortable, whenever. Remember how Jesus healed a leper? Do you know what leprosy is? It’s a super contagious skin disease can be transmitted by just touching someone with it. These people were banished from society in Jesus’ time. And what did Jesus do? Not only did He allow a leper to approach Him, but Jesus touched Him! Jesus could have gotten leprosy, too! He was willing to take that risk. What risks are we willing to take?

The Corporal Works of Mercy:

  • To feed the hungry
  • To give drink to the thirsty
  • To clothe the naked
  • To harbor the harbourless
  • To visit the sick
  • To ransom the captive
  • To bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • To instruct the ignorant
  • To consul the doubtful
  • To admonish sinners
  • To bear wrongs patiently
  • To forgive offenses patiently
  • To comfort the afflicted
  • To pray for the living and the dead

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and  you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and and you visited me.” – Matthew 25:34-36

“Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:8-10

“Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” – St. Augustine

What Draws Me to God

For some people, faith in God comes easily. For others, faith seems foreign and even scary. I’ve definitely experienced both. Here are some promptings in my heart that have led me to God:

  • A desire for purpose in life
  • Longing to be loved
  • Acknowledgement that all people are created uniquely and deserve to be loved
  • Desire for perfect justice
  • Desire for mercy for the wrongs I have done
  • A longing to thank the Creator for the beauty of nature
  • Desire for someone to stick up for me in good times and in bad, giving completely of themselves

God has fulfilled each of these desires in me and it has allowed me to live a happier, more fulfilling life. My life is just as hard as anyone else’s, but my faith is the rock on which I can stand steady even in the midst of storms and gives me hope and peace in all things.