Monday, April 30, 2012

Date Night with Jesus

On my desk at work, there is currently a copy of a book called "Dating God: Live and Love in the way of St. Francis" ( It is a small book, which bodes well for me considering the fact that I often do not have the attention span to truly make it through a book longer than 150 pages. I believe I am "in the middle of" at least four different books that last over 150 pages that I became distracted from and simply have not finished. This book caught my eye when I was at a Christian bookstore because the concept of "Dating God" has always been very intriguing to me. Especially within the past year. We are all called to enter into a relationship with God. A relationship that is deep, intimate, moving, passionate... One that fulfills the longing of all our hearts. ("Our heart is restless until it rests in you." St. Augustine) To me, this was always easily compared to a dating relationship with a significant other. For is that not what we all desire? To share in communion with an other that is deep, intimate, moving, passionate?... That truly fulfills the longing of our hearts? Sadly we seek this out in that long desired significant other rather than with THE significant OTHER. But I like the concept of what this book suggests. It actually reminds me of a revelation of thought I had this past summer.

I was with a group of teens and other youth ministers at a Steubenville Conference in Springfield, MO. This was my first Steubie since I graduated high school. I was so excited because it was on my first Steubenville trip that Jesus became real. The beauty of these conferences is that all who attend are treated to the reality of Jesus within an encounter with Him in Eucharistic adoration that is more powerful than most spiritual experiences I have ever had. At the time, I was eagerly anticipating the second night, Saturday night, where the Eucharist is the main attraction. To me, it is almost my own experience of the Transfiguration, Jesus is made known to me in all of His glory. The night before, Jesus reminded me in an incredibly powerful way my need to be loved and to allow myself to be loved... I had no doubt He was going to share with me His love this second night.

Before this "main attraction" went down, one of the conference speakers proclaimed the love of the Father for us His children. He ended up demonstrating it in one of the most powerful ways. At the pinnacle of his preaching, the speaker began to talk of how many of us do not understand the love of the Father because the love of our own father is far from perfect. That we do not have a witness in our own personal stories to really understand this love. So he ended up inviting a married couple of many years to come on to the stage and they slow danced before us to a moving song. He asked us to imagine the love that this married couple shared for each other as the love the Father shares for us, but in an infinitely greater way. This INSTANTLY sparked a fire within my heart, for the love of God is of course relational. And it started a fire in a camp that was built in my heart just a few weeks earlier regarding the love of God...

At the time I was working at our Catholic summer camp "Camp Tekakwitha" on the leadership team called the "Blue Team". We were discussing the added experiences we create for the longest camp of the summer, (And the absolute best camp of the summer! Truly one of my favorite weeks of the year for the past 6 years) T-Extreme. I signed up to lead one of the morning prayer sessions and it was to be focused on our experience of the Mass and how to properly enter into this great communion with God. A tall task, but one that I was looking forward to nonetheless considering the fact that I have a great love for the Eucharist and receiving Jesus in the Mass. But, I was stuck in contemplating how I was going to do this. How was I going to relate to these teens the great experience we are blessed to enter into each Mass in which we get to receive Jesus Christ, our Beloved, in the Eucharist? How was I going to truly express in a way these teens could understand the great experience of God's love that occurs at every Catholic Mass?

Back to Stuebie... As I was sitting there, watching this married couple of who knows how many years slow dance together, I was caught up in the thought of how amazing the love is between a husband and wife. And it made me think of a concept that I heard of that I believe is so incredible that I hope to practice with my own wife some day. That concept is the simple concept of "date night". This is where a married couple reserves a certain night of the week for their beloved. Where a husband and wife reserve this night every week, (whether it is Friday night, Monday night, Tuesday night, whatever night!) to spend time with the one they love. It does not matter what they do as long as they are with each other. They can go out to eat at a fancy restaurant or stay at home and make dinner themselves. They can go to a movie theater to catch a new release, or they could stay at home to watch their go to movie on DVD. They can go to a special place downtown, at a park, or in the country, or they could just go to their special place on the swing chair on their front porch. Whatever they do, all that matters, is that they get to spend time with their beloved. I have heard of couples who have been married for several years stay faithful to this concept and it just blows me away. That, to me, shows a couple who knows what it means to love and be loved...

Then, God spoke to me... This is what Sunday Mass is... "Date night with Jesus". Date night with THE Beloved. Date night with THE One and only who can truly fulfill us. Date night with THE One who knows us infinitely and therefore can love us infinitely. Date night with God. That is what each experience of the Mass is! It is an intimate, deep, moving, passionate date with God. It is a date with the One who can truly fulfill our hearts the way they were created to be fulfilled. And Sunday is our date night, the one day out of the whole week that we drop everything else to reserve intimate and personal time with our Beloved. To be in communion with the One who loves us most.

The love of God is of course RELATIONAL. And if you have ever had any experience of working with or talking to teens, you would know very well that they are RELATIONAL beings. Much of what they talk about or consist their life in is their relationships. Who their friends are, what their friends are doing, who is dating who... And many of them are at a point in their life where for the first time they experience that strong desire and longing of being with another in an intimate and significant way as dating. What better way to share with these teens the love that we experience within each Catholic Mass than through the concept of "Date night with Jesus"? This was it. This was how God was calling me to share the love we enter into at every Mass with the teens at T-Extreme.

Of course, when I got back to Camp to share this divine nugget of revelation with the rest of Blue Team, I was informed that the schedule had changed and now that morning prayer was going to focus on our relationship with Mary... Well crud... But this was not going to stop me from sharing this! I shared it with everyone I could talk to. I shared it with the teens in my youth group. I shared it with the youth ministers I work with. I shared it with several others. Now I want to share it with you. The idea that the Catholic Mass is our own "Date Night with Jesus".

Think about it. When you walk into a church on Sunday for Mass, what do you see at the center? An altar with an altar cloth, plenty of candles, chairs, and some dishes... Now picture a couple walking into their kitchen with a table cloth on the table, candles in the middle, two chairs for the beloveds and some dishes ready to share a meal with one another.

What happens on a date in the first place? The typical date begins with the couple talking before dinner or during dinner where they share a meal with one another and, more importantly share their life stories with one another. The couple gets to know one another. What happens in the first half of the Mass? The Liturgy of the Word where the life stories of God and His beloved people are shared with the first and second readings, the responsorial psalm and the Gospel. The couple gets to know one another. The beloved gets to know the Lover.

Often times during the meal certain music is played to set an environment where love is easily encouraged and shared between the two lovers. What happens at Sunday Mass is that music is played to set an environment where love is easily encouraged and shared between the Lover and the beloved. (And what could be more romantic than one of the lovers to write a song for their beloved to really put into words the love they feel for them? And people don't understand why we sing at Mass or why it is more powerful to pray through song.)

What happens at the end of a date? The love between the lover and beloved is shared in an intimate and unique way through the body where they share in an exchange of persons in a kiss. Where the one gives themselves as a gift to the other, and the other receives it completely and then reciprocates that gift of self back to the one, who receives it completely. (And if the couple is married, that love can be shared physically in the most intimate of ways within the marital embrace of conjugal union, otherwise known as the "hibidy dibbidy"! Or sex. Where two become one flesh.) And what happens at the end of Mass? The love between the Lover and beloved is shared in an intimate and unique way through the body where they share in an exchange of persons with Holy Communion. Where one and THE One become one flesh. Where the One gives themselves as a gift to the other, and the other receives it completely and then reciprocates that gift of self back to the One, who receives it completely. That is our experience in the Eucharist. A certain marital embrace with God. Complete union with our Savior. Communion.

And what really matters with this date night? Do you think it matters to the lover and beloved if the restaurant they eat at is aesthetically pleasing or if it is run-down and needs renovations? Do you think it matters to the lover and beloved if the music at the concert they went to was the greatest music they have ever heard or if the live band that played during dinner was a shade better than a 5th grade band rehearsal? Do you think it matters to the lover and beloved if the movie they went and saw at the theater was engaging, exciting, entertaining, and went by really fast, or the movie they watched at home was long, dry, dull and had no point? None of this matters to the lover and beloved because all that truly matters to them is that they are with the one they love. All that matters to them is the love they get to share within that date. All that matters is that they get to be with their beloved.

To that I ask, what really matters with our own "date night with Jesus"? Do you think it matters if the church we go to is reminiscent of the beautiful cathedrals of Rome or is an older church that desperately needs renovations? Do you think it matters if the music played at Mass is that which could be digitally recorded, mass reproduced and sold to anybody and everybody or if the music played at Mass is long, drawn out and boring? Do you think it matters if the priest's homily is truly engaging, exciting, entertaining and goes by really fast or instead, maybe it is too long, dry, dull and has no point? None of that matters! None of this matters to the lover who is with their Beloved because all that truly matters to them is that they are with the One they love. All that should matter to us is the love that we get to share within each Mass. All that should matter is that we get to be with our Beloved.

This thought of sharing "Date Night with Jesus" has been pivotal to my experience with the Mass. It has truly brought such a new outlook on my experience on Sundays and during daily Mass that my heart has renewed and rediscovered the love that I have for God and the love that He has for me! I LONG to be with my Beloved God and I know that He DESPERATELY LONGS to be with me. And these desires run into each other in a beautiful collision within each Mass. And this extreme and somewhat scandalous perspective of the love God is calling us to share in has diffused into the rest of my prayer life.

What does one who is with their beloved in marriage do the first things they wake up? They say good morning to their beloved and "I love you" to their beloved. Why can't we do this with our Beloved?

What do they do last in their day before going to sleep? Say goodnight to their beloved and "I love you". What if we did this with our Beloved?

What do ones who love each other do throughout the day? They send messages of love to each other to remind the other of their love for them! Whether that is with a phone call, text message, email, facebook message, whatever! What if we did this with our Beloved, took time throughout the day to send a message of love to our Beloved with a simple prayer?

What do they try to make time for every day to stay in communion with the one they love? They make sure to spend intentional, intimate, and personal time with the one they love in conversation to further discover the person that they are. What if we did this with our Beloved? What if we made sure to spend intentional, intimate, and personal time with the One we love in conversation to further discover the Person they are? What if we made time for deep, personal, intimate conversation with our God in prayer every day? We should do this to stay in communion with the One we love and who loves us.

Wouldn't that couple want to do all that it can to be before one another in conversation if it were possible? What about us? Do we do all that we can to be before the One we love in conversation if it were possible in Eucharistic Adoration?

And if it were possible and worked for their schedules and rhythm of life, wouldn't this couple want to share the intimacy of love they have for each other with a date every day? What about us? If it is possible and worked for our schedules and rhythm of life, wouldn't we want to be with our Beloved every day in the greatest intimacy of love we can share in with a date with Jesus in daily Mass?

This is the love God has for us.

It is relational.

It is personal.

It is deep.

It is intimate.

It is the love between Lover and beloved.

Between lover and Beloved.

And it is shared most intimately and deeply within the Mass.

So please, as often as possible... Make time for

Date Night with Jesus.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All for You

I like to think that I'm what you might call an "All or nothing" kind of guy... This is what merited the nickname "Charlie Hustle" in my summer softball league team the first summer after freshman year at KU (Given to me by the umpire after I jumped the fence off first base to get a foul ball). I think if you're going to do something, you should go all out, or don't do it at all. I try to live by this. Often times I fail at it. But that doesn't keep my heart from desiring it.

It reminds me of when I was at KU, playing basketball at the Rec center up there, you get all kinds of people. TONS of guys who think they should be playing for KU's basketball team play in pick-up games there. The most frustrating experience for me was when you'd get on a team of guys who all they would do was jack around rather than play basketball. My competitive juices flow way to strong to just goof around on the court rather than go all out. How can you play the game half-heartedly? Often times, because I would try too hard, I'm sure I was looked at strangely from these very same guys.

The ante is upped even more when there is something to play for. I'm thinking about all those intramural games when it came tournament time and the winner of the tournament would get a free t-shirt. Oh man, how people would really go all out then, just to win a free t-shirt. (that's not a ridiculous concept for a college student. They would do anything for a free t-shirt!) Even this past year. I was on a rec league dodgeball team and we went undefeated! Impressive, I know! But, every single game, I would try my hardest and would be so disappointed every time I got out, because I knew, in the end, there could be a free t-shirt if our team just kept on winning.

We all try harder, go longer, live with all we got when there is something to play for, to fight for, to die for... It reminds me of the first summer I worked at Camp Tekakwitha. I was going into a situation I knew nothing about, had never lived, and truly did not know how hard it was going to be. All I knew is that I wanted to be a positive role model for young teens and do my best to bring them closer to Christ. As I geared up for the one month I was going to be there, (I had to take a class in June, so I could only work in July), I was doing my best to let God prepare my heart so that I could be my best for whatever campers I was entrusted with. When it came to be just a couple of days before I headed back to camp for the first camp of July, I remember thinking to myself, "why does God want me there? What am I doing this for?" And as I reflected on that and prayed about that, it came to me. I wasn't just going to do it so that I could be a positive role model for those teens, I was going to lay it all out there for my brothers and my sister. So that they may in some way receive the graces that might be given through the work that was done that month of camp. And I remembered this frequently as things got hard, difficult, tough, as sweat dripped down my face from being in 100 degree heat for most of the day, as I was slowly getting out of bed at 6:30 in the morning to wake up campers and go for another 17 hour day. I remembered this specifically as I received our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist every time we had Mass. My siblings were what I was fighting for. They were what I was going all out for. They were what I was dying for. And Man, what an AMAZING summer it was when it was all done. I looked back, and I could truly say that I left it all out on the field, and I did it for them.

I reflect on this because just yesterday I was part of closing down camp with Camp T-Extreme with some AMAZING and EXTRAORDINARY people for the 6th summer in a row with the theme of "All for You". Every summer has brought me something new to reflect upon, something new for me to grow in. Something new to change my life. This summer, I realized that God is calling us to go all out. He wants us to use ALL that we got, not just a little, or some, or a fraction. He wants us to use ALL that we got. And in that, He wants us to use ALL that we got FOR something or somebody. He wants us to use ALL the gifts, talents, abilities, graces, blessings, beauty, truth, goodness, ALL of it, FOR something or someone that is bigger than ourselves!

And I have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT in my mind that all of the Staff that worked at Camp Tekakwitha this summer truly lived the theme for this summer by going ALL out FOR something bigger than themselves, which I believe is YOU. YOU may be the close to 2,000 campers that came in and out of Prairie Star Ranch the past 2 months. YOU may have been the 90 some staff members that worked, sweat, lived, prayed, hugged, laughed, and loved each one of those days. YOU may have been the families of every single one of those campers as they sent their children away for however many days to encounter Christ through the ministry of Camp Tekakwitha. YOU may have been the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS that Archbishop Naumann so gracefully shepherds to a closer relationship with Christ. YOU may have been their own families that they left and barely saw this summer so that they could lay their lives down for a new family, the Camp Tekakwitha family. YOU may have been the names or people, or things that the staff wrote down on the cross at the beginning of summer during staff training that resided behind the tabernacle of the Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha Chapel all summer.

But I truly believe, the biggest YOU that our staff gave their ALL FOR was none other than our King of Kings, our Lord of Lords, our Prince of Peace, our Savior, our Messiah, our God, JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF! They lived out the theme of "ALL FOR YOU" for God Himself, knowing that this is what God is calling us to. God wants us to be people with an "All or nothing" attitude. Not just in sports. Not just in school. Not just with our extracurricular activities. Not just with our relationships. Not just with whatever our dreams, our desires, our hopes may be. BUT WITH OUR FAITH! He wants us and is calling us to be "All or nothing" people for our Faith in His incredible love for us that was demonstrated through the life, death and resurrection of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and continues to be evident through the mysterious and beautiful movements of the Holy Spirit that resides within each one of us through our Baptism. This is what it means to be Christian. This is what it means to be Catholic. This is what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. And this is what I challenge you ALL to live out FOR the rest of your lives, and this is my hope for YOU.

Thank you so much Camp Tekakwitha Staff of 2011 "All for You". Thank you for living our theme out so beautifully in this summer at camp. Thank you for giving your ALL with every single day that God gave us. Thank you for doing it for whatever YOU you may have been living FOR, giving yourself FOR, dying to yourself FOR. And THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING IT FOR OUR GOD WHO CONTINUES TO GIVE HIMSELF ALL FOR YOU EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES! You have truly transformed my heart for the better, and know that you will be in my prayers for the rest of my life.

Continue to live "ALL FOR YOU" the rest of this year. Strive for it despite whatever challenges, difficulties, trials, persecutions, sufferings, weaknesses, hardships, and failings you might face. Work towards it with ALL YOU GOT! And know that I will be doing the same and continuously looking forward to seeing you again every time I receive the Eucharist. This goes for whatever campers that may end up reading this blog too. Just because you aren't at camp with the theme of "All for you" doesn't mean that you still can't live that out. Give it your all to live out "All for You" every single day this year no matter what comes your way. And know that God will continually live ALL FOR YOU.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Straight in the nuts

Over a month ago, I attended this dinner offered by the Archdiocese program that helps fight the difficult problem of pornography and its effects on families, marriages, and lives striving for holiness. This was just after the KC area event that was a tri-factor called "Men of Valor/Women of Virtue/Youth for Truth". This was an AMAZING event in which several men, women, and teens converged for a Friday night and a Saturday morning conference about living a life of modesty, purity, and chastity. Truly awesome! It brought a number of great speakers on this subject to speak to husbands, wives, parents, couples, and teens. Many of these speakers were at this dinner I attended.

After we had finished eating, several people were invited up to share witness to their devotion in fighting the effects pornography has on our families, our culture, and our soul. One of them I particularly enjoyed. His name is Matt Fradd. This guy is awesome! Friday night of the conference, Jason Evert (one of my favorite Catholic speakers) was supposed to be the headlining speaker for the teens. But, his wife and one of his children were very ill, so he couldn't make it to speak at this conference (major bummer!). Instead, Pam Stenzel and Matt Fradd filled in for him friday night. And Matt NAILED IT! It was awesome! He's this Australian guy (great accent!) who mixed humor with a heartfelt message. Truly enjoyed what he had to say.

Anyways, at this dinner, he starts to share a little bit of why he has gotten into this fight against pornography. He shares this awesome story of ministering to a woman who was a student and paid for her schooling by stripping and her conversion. But the kicker, the part that trumped everything else he said, the part I'm going to try and center this post around, was at the end where he summed up everything rather nicely. He said "And, really, the big reason why I'm doing this and fighting against pornography is because I just really want to kick Satan straight in the nuts... Thank you and God bless!"...

I just really want to kick Satan straight in the nuts... WHO SAYS THAT?!?!!? (It was even more awesome in his Australian accent!) Who honestly thinks that?!? Who wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves "A new day! Time to find ways to kick Satan straight in the nuts!"? Who makes a goal of their work and what they devote a lot of their time to kicking Satan in the nuts? THIS GUY DOES! And right when he said that, every fiber in my very being resounded a loud and infinite "AMEN!!!!!!!!". THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO DO! To kick Satan straight in the nuts. Man! That is such a great goal! For those who may be reading this and are female, the nuts is truly the money shot. Get hit there, and you're hurting really bad! You're down for the count with one quick shot. And to be able to do this to Satan? To look to take him down with one quick shot. To hit him where it counts! SIGN ME UP!

This past Sunday, the Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent was the temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4: 1-11). Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. It says "he fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry". (This line always cracks me up. "and afterwards he was hungry"... NO DUH HE WAS HUNGRY! He didn't eat for 40 days and 40 nights! SHOOT, I go 40 minutes of fasting and afterwards I am hungry! But, it shows you how much Jesus truly entered into our humanity. He too suffered from hunger...) The devil approaches him and begins to tempt him. How ridiculous is that?!?! The devil trying to tempt even God himself made man! But, does the devil truly know that Jesus is the Son of God?

He proceeds to tempt Him in three ways. First, by tempting his physical weakness, his physical needs, and that is to turn the stones into loaves of bread. Then, he tempts his belief in God, if He is truly the Son of God, then throw yourself down off the temple and God's angels will save you. Finally, he tempts Him to be God Himself in this world by ruling over all the kingdoms of the world, if He but bows down and worships him... And the devil is cunning! Satan is smart! He uses scripture to tempt Jesus, knowing full well that Jesus knows the very scripture he tempts Him with! He knows exactly how to tempt each person and in which way. Satan tempts us in the very same ways.

"The devil tempts us precisely by taking advantage of the needs and weaknesses of human nature." (In Conversation with God, vol. 2 pg. 27) You can see this in the devil's temptations of Jesus. First, he tempts Him in the weakness of human nature within our human bodies. Our body's have desires. They have needs! The need for food, water, rest, love... When we are hungriest, Satan tempts us with what is not true food (the stones aren't truly loaves of bread, although Jesus could make them into true loaves of bread). Think about it. When you are the hungriest for a basic, natural, human desire, do you find yourself looking to fulfill this hunger often times with something that is a mirage of what will truly fulfill you? The devil promises that you will be fulfilled, but "the devil always promises more than he can give." (In Conversation with God, vol. 2, pg. 29)

How about the belief in the existence of God? This question is on the heart of every human being. Does God really exist? And if He does exist, is He truly a "Loving God"? Often times this question is followed up by another question, "If God really does exist, why doesn't He take care of me? Why doesn't He take care of the ones I love? Why doesn't He look after all of us? Why does He let bad things happen?" Many people may look at the recent incidents of Japan, with the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear powerplants failing, and they may say, "Why would God let this happen if He were a loving God?" But, isn't this the question of the devil in the story of creation? Sure, the serpent asks "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" (Genesis 3: 1) But, this is truly tempting us to question if God really loves us. If God is really loving, why would He restrict your freedom? Why would He keep things from you? Why would He take things from you, like the people you love, the feeling of safety and security, the belief that if you call to Him, He will save you? He tempts Jesus in the same way. If you but fall from this parapet, God will command his angels to take care of you. If God exists, He will save you. Yet, Jesus replies "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'" We must have faith and trust in God our Father! We should not test Him!

Finally, he tempts us that we should become God ourselves. That we should rule over our world and not let God be our "master". The devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence if He just worships him. That Jesus could have all the kingdoms of the world and rule over it all. That He may decide what is right and what is wrong and impose His will upon everyone. This was not the first time the devil tempted someone in such a way. Again, we go back to the book of Genesis where he tempts Eve saying "God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad." (Genesis 3: 5) You will be like gods... You will know what is good and what is bad. YOU CAN DECIDE FOR YOURSELF WHAT IS RIGHT AND WHAT IS WRONG!!! He still tempts us this today! "Why should you listen to a God (that you don't even know if He truly exists) to decide what is right or wrong? You should be able to decide for yourself what is good and what is bad for you!" How many people do you see living their lives deciding what is good for themselves and what is bad for themselves? Where does it get them? How often do you yourself decide what is good and what is bad? The devil is pushing us to become gods in our own right. To rule over our own worlds rather than let God rule over them! To decide for ourselves what is right for us and what is wrong for us rather than let God tell us and guide us to how we were truly created! BUT THIS IS NOT HOW WE WERE CREATED! THIS IS A PROMISE THAT FALLS FAR SHORT OF THE TRUTH! WE CAN NOT DECIDE FOR OURSELVES WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT IS BAD! GOD ALONE, THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, THE CREATOR OF YOU AND ME, IS THE ONLY ONE WHO MAY GUIDE US TO HOW WE ARE TRULY TO LIVE!

The devil is real. The devil is cunning. The devil is persistent. The devil knows how to tempt us. The devil knows our weaknesses and our needs. The devil knows when we are at our weakest and hits us hard at those moments.

One of his first temptations and goals is to get you to believe that he is not real. That he does not exist. Do not be fooled. He is real and he exists. "The devil exists. Holy Scripture speaks of him from the first to the last of the revealed books, from Genesis to the Apocalypse." (In Conversation with God, vol. 2, pg. 31)

He will do his best to tempt you and attack you at your weakest moments, at the moments you are not paying attention, but heed the words of St. Peter, "Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5: 8)

And he will do his best to separate you from God and His love. To get you to believe that fulfilling your bodily needs and desires is more important then serving a loving God. That, in fact He doesn't really love you, He doesn't really care for you, that He doesn't even exist. That you would be better off being your own god, for you should decide for yourself what is good for you. But always remember "GOD IS ALWAYS BESIDE US!" (ICwG vol. 2, pg. 29) and as St. Peter says "Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you!" (1 Peter 5: 7)

And he will do his best to isolate you, to make you feel all alone in your struggles and difficulties and hardships in resisting the devil, so you might as well give in. But this is not so! For again, St. Peter says "Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings." (1 Peter 5: 9)

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER, that although you will suffer, for in every battle suffering occurs, God, through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit will be there for you. He will give you strength. Will guide you and will fulfill you as long as you turn to Him and allow Him to. As St. Peter says "The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little." (1 Peter 5: 10)

And you shall be blessed in the end. "So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Peter 5: 6) "Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1: 12)

Let us believe in the devil's existence.

Let us believe that he will attack us when we are weak.

Let us be sober and vigilant.

Let us believe in a God who loves us.

Let us believe that we are not alone in our struggles.

Let us believe that God will give us the strength to fight any temptation.

Let us believe that we shall be exalted in due time.

And let us seek and strive, through our reliance on a God who loves us, to kick Satan straight in the nuts!

Monday, February 21, 2011

everything is possible...

When I was in the 2nd to 5th grade, my family lived in Mundelein, Chicago. I have really great memories of the house that our family resided in at 701 Hillside dr. The greatest part about that time was that my brother Jason was my absolute best friend! We did everything together. Sure, me being the younger brother by a year and 3 months, he may not have liked it. He might have felt like there was a new born puppy following him around everywhere. He probably felt this even more because I wagged my tail every where we went, slobbered on anything we passed by, and often pooped where I wasn't supposed to... But let's not get into that. I like to believe he enjoyed me being his best friend as much as I enjoyed him being mine. We definitely had our moments of fighting, but we always came out hugging and forgetting.

I have many memories with him during that time. In our mischief, we broke a few items around the house that mom and dad didn't necessarily appreciate. We shared a room together with a bunk bed in which, when it came time to clean it up, my brother always had the brilliant plan that I, being the younger brother, should clean up everything that was touching the floor, while he cleaned up everything that wasn't touching the floor. For some reason I fell for this, and ended up cleaning up pretty much our whole room while he watched and giggled. Good move Jason! We spent our mornings, eating breakfast, waiting for the bus, watching the Bozo the clown show or Scooby Doo.

How could I forget the moment that really showed me his love and thoughtfulness towards me as a brother? In 5th grade I was in band (I played a mean trumpet... No doubt I sounded horrible.) and we had practice after school. One afternoon, as I got out of practice, I was waiting outside for my mother to pick me up. Many minutes later, realizing that everyone had left, and I was the only one there. I decided it was best for me to hike it home. So, I picked up my trumpet case, put on my backpack and began the long trek back to our house. When I was about half-way home, I saw a distant figure riding towards me on a bike that had blonde hair like mine. As this figure got closer, I realized it was my brother Jason. When he finally got up to me, he mentioned something about how our mom forgot to pick me up (Surprise, Surprise! Just kidding mom!). He then suggested that I ride the bike home, and he would carry my trumpet case and backpack as he walked the rest of the way. Without hesitation, I took him up on his offer and coasted back home on what I'm sure was none other than a "Dyno" stunt bike. We were really cool! Especially my brother for doing such a great deed such as that! That's the kind of selfless, thoughtful guy my brother Jason is. I truly look up to him.

There's one last story I want to share. It was on a wonderful winter day in Illinois, which meant it was really cold! We had a park across the street from our house that had a pond and a gazebo. Every winter, when it would get well below freezing, the pond would freeze over, and in our adventurous hearts, we would always walk across it to different parts of the pond and just slide on it for fun. The one afternoon I recall now, it wasn't well below freezing, but just a few degrees below. Still VERY cold! As Jason and I and our friend Jay (this guy was awesome! Ask any of my family members about him and their response will probably be something along the lines of "oh man... he was a character!") were walking on the frozen ice of the pond. We came to a spot that was close to the land and started to "test the ice". Although, throughout my years I have always been kind of dense and not necessarily caught on to what's really happening around me, there was part of me that was sensing some mischief in Jason and Jay's attitudes. We came to a spot where they started jumping up and down next to each other. Then, they started to encourage me to do the same! "Come on Chris! Just jump up and down! Look! The ice is really thick here..." Trusting in these two dear friends of mine, and one of them being my older brother who would NEVER want any harm for his little brother, I had faith in their suggestions. So, I took the liberty in joining them, even though I was standing about 7 feet or so away from them. Little did I know, the spot I was currently standing on, they realized was thinner then the rest and should not be jumped on. Low and behold, after the third jump, the ice gives way underneath me, and I fall into the pond water below me that went about waist deep! FREAKING OUT because the water was freezing, I do my best to get out hurriedly, shuffle to the side and proceed to run home. All the while, my brother Jason and our friend Jay are laughing in such a way that it seemed their plan had been achieved. Once I got feeling back in my legs, you better believe I was looking to exact my revenge on my brother Jason. But, he definitely got the best of me that day. After that, my faith in his suggestions somewhat dwindled. I say "somewhat" because, again, I'm pretty dense, so I still bought in from time to time.

I mention this because, not only do I love my brother so much and truly enjoyed those times we had in Illinois, but mainly because I was reminded of this last story in my prayer today. My meditation was focused on faith. The Holy Spirit was really working within me to ask and plead to God to help me and increase my faith in Him. It was based off the Gospel passage for today from Mark. The reading was from Mark 9: 14-29. In this reading, as Jesus was coming down from the mountain where He was transfigured in all His glory before Peter, James and John, a crowd approached them as they were arguing. Upon asking them what they were arguing about, Jesus comes to find that a man had brought his son who was possessed by a mute spirit to his disciples so that they would drive it out, but they could not. So, he brings the boy to Jesus and immediately the boy goes into convulsions. Jesus then asks the father how long this has been happening to him and his reply and what continues after it I will write to emphasize the point:

   "'Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.' Jesus said to him, ''If you can!' Everything is possible to one who has faith.' Then the boy's father cried out, 'I do believe, help my unbelief!' Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, 'Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!' Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out..."

Could you just imagine this scene? Jesus, coming down from the mountain, where He had just revealed the beautiful glory of His divinity to Peter, James and John (all of them being on a "God high" if you will...) is immediately confronted by a large, arguing crowd. Thrown into the mix right away, Jesus is approached by a man who has a son that no one else can help. Jesus is this man's only hope. As Jesus confronts the man about his situation, the man shows his lack of faith in his statement "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Questioning whether or not Jesus, this man's only hope, could do anything to help his situation. But should we fault this man for such a comment? He approached several others before Jesus. Others who had worked miracles in the name of Christ before for other people. These same people who had helped countless others, could not help him and his son. When your faith is shaken in such a way, it is hard to have faith at all! Yet, he still reached out to Jesus for help! And asked for His compassion. Jesus responds in such a way where He points out the man's lack of faith, and then proclaims such a statement of faith that would bring hope to anyone when He says "Everything is possible to one who has faith".

This man then realizes his own lack of faith and cries out to Christ for help with this weakness. "I do believe, help my unbelief!" What a BEAUTIFUL cry for help!!! In Christ's great compassion, he recognizes this man's cry for help and responds in such an amazing way. He commands the mute and deaf spirit to come out of this man's son, and it does. Now imagine what is going on in the heart of that man. That same man who questioned Jesus's ability to help him, Jesus Christ's ability to do anything for him. That same man who realized his lack of faith, and cried out in his weakness and complete vulnerability "HELP MY UNBELIEF!" What do you think this situation has done for his faith? What do you think his complete vulnerability and his cry out to the Lord for help has done for his faith? What do you think seeing his son, who was abused by this mute, deaf spirit for years, ever since his childhood, now upright and healthy? How do you think this whole situation affected the faith of all those who were in the crowd witnessing this situation?

If Christ were to say to you "Everything is possible to one who has faith", what would your response be? Would you respond as the father did saying "I do believe, help my unbelief!"? Or would you respond in a different way?

Faith can be a touchy subject for many. This may be the case for some because their situation may be like the father's from this Gospel. They have spent years, ever since their childhood, searching for faith. Going to people that have helped others in their lack of faith. Seeing many people having their prayers answered, yet finding no answers to their own. Looking for some one to help them in their lack of faith, yet finding no one who could give them the answer they want. Striving to find some reason to believe that their situation can be helped, yet never feeling as if it will be resolved.

Or, maybe their situation is like mine with my brother when we were playing on the ice. They had great faith in some one whom they believed was leading them down the right path. They believed they were concerned for their greater good. They would follow them anywhere, even on thin ice. Yet, despite their great concern for them, they for one reason or another, let them fall. They find themselves cold, bitter and untrusting because this person let them fall. And their faith has been lost in the frostbite of their hurt.

Whatever the situation might be, let us learn from the man in the Gospel. When we are most vulnerable, when we have exhausted all other options, when we are completely broken, let us go to the only one who can truly proclaim "Everything is possible to one who has faith." Let us go to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone and proclaim "I do believe, help my unbelief!" For, as it says in the meditation for today from "In Conversation with God vol. 3":

    "Faith is a gift of God, and only He can increase it in the soul."

It is Christ and Christ alone that can give us the faith our heart and soul is searching for! It is Jesus Himself who can break the walls of unbelief that surround our heart and bring faith into our soul! It is God alone who can transform an unbelieving heart into one that's full of faith!

But, He will not do it unless we sincerely ask Him. He will not go against our free will. And, for some reason, it's only in our brokenness that our prayers become sincere. Embrace your brokenness... God does.

We must also have an open heart to receive the faith Christ longs to give us. "For our part, humility, purity of soul and openness of heart towards the truth will enable us to receive those gifts which Jesus never denies to souls who place no obstacles in the way of his granting them." (In Conversation with God, vol. 3 p. 360-361)

If we know of others, "if the faith of our friends, brothers and sisters or children were to waver or weaken, we should imitate this good father in the Gospel account" (ibid, p. 360). We should approach Jesus Christ for their sake and pray that He may open their heart so that they may receive the supernatural light that is faith in Him!

So, let us pray along with the man from the Gospel despite what faith we have in our hearts and say "I do believe, help my unbelief!".

Let us pray along with each other and say "Lord, increase my faith! Don't allow my faith in you ever to be shaken!"

Let us pray for those we know whose faith has been weakened, wavered or left wanting and say "Open their hearts, Lord, so that they may receive Your supernatural light"!

And let us believe that "everything is possible to one who has faith."

Saturday, February 19, 2011


There are only a few movies that make me cry. Yes! It's true. I do cry. I know many of you were thinking that you could replace "Chris Walters" with "Chuck Norris" in the hilarious quip "I heard Chuck Norris's tears could cure cancer... Too bad he never cries..." Well, I haven't submitted my tears to a medical research lab to see if they could cure cancer or not, but I certainly do cry. NOT OFTEN! Let me at least hang on to that little bit of masculinity so that no one thinks I'm what some might call a complete "sensie" (overly sensitive male). But back to the topic at hand.

There are a few movies that make me cry every time I watch them. One that gets me every time is the Mel Gibson classic "The Patriot". You all know what scene I'm talking about if you've seen that movie. Not to ruin it for anyone who hasn't (which there is NO WAY me explaining this scene to anyone who hasn't seen the movie would ruin it for them, it's too beautiful) but it's when his youngest daughter who hasn't spoken a word to him this whole movie runs towards him as he is riding away on his horse with tears, and the cutest pigtails look ever, saying "Daddy, don't go! I'll say anything you want, just please don't go!" Oh man... Every time it gets me! I could try to think of the manliest thoughts in the world as I watch that scene, yet that girl would crack me as a pair of eggs ready to make breakfast every time! Makes me hope and pray every time I see it that God is calling me to be a father...

Other movies include:

-"The Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the ring" when Boromir continues fighting despite falling and failing his comrades just a few scenes prior, to save the life of Frodo whom he was almost attacking in the scene mentioned, as he has arrows shot into him repeatedly. That fight and resolve I hope is the same fight and resolve I have towards fighting the good fight for the Kingdom of Heaven, despite what falls I may have and arrows I take from the enemy.

-"A Walk to Remember"... yeah, I know, you may take my man card away from me for mentioning this, but hey, I'm not afraid of admitting the truth. Besides, I still hold my boyhood crush on Mandy Moore. How could I not cry with what happens to her character?

-"Man on Fire" The ending, with Denzel Washington and that embrace on the bridge where he says "with all my heart". Makes me think of what an embrace with Jesus Christ Himself would be. And how hard Jesus Christ will fight to save that one lost sheep... Well, without all the killing and unnecessary violence of course.

-Why not give a shout out to a couple animated greats! "Finding Nemo" How could you not cry at the beginning with what happens to that fish's family!?!?!? And to see that Dad's love for his son. Wow! I have no doubt my father loves me that much! Both my earthly and especially my heavenly! "Up" Man, PIXAR really just wants to get the water works within the first five minutes of their movies huh? To see the love that man had for his wife, again, makes me hope God calls me to marriage so that I can image that same love for my own wife! And to do something great for her too! And I'll even throw in "Hercules" to this. I love this movie! And I have teared up at the fact that Hercules desires with all his heart to find where he belongs and will do GREAT things to get there, even sacrifice great things! And to sacrifice even his own life for love.... Sounds kind of like Jesus huh? Except I'm sure Jesus didn't ride around on a mythical creature like Pegasus. Nor did he have such hilarious snoring habits as a baby with that same mythical creature. (Hercules: "Snorrreeee..." Pegasus: "Weeweeweeweeweewee"...

-"Armageddon" With that ending, where Bruce Willis is talking to his daughter Liv Tyler while he's on the asteroid. The things he says and the love he has right before he makes such a great sacrifice makes the magnanimity in my heart burn within me that I may, one day, be able to make such a great sacrifice out of love for some one else. To imitate the love of Christ.

-There are plenty of others too (please don't make fun of me for admitting there are plenty of movies that make me cry). Such as "Remember the Titans". What happens to Gary, and what happens after that. "Cinderella Man" or "Gladiator". Russell Crowe portrays a man of sacrifice very well! How could I not mention "The Passion of Christ"? The story of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection? Cry every time! And I'm sure, if I really put some thought into it I could think of others.

But the one movie that I really love. The one movie that I have watched 3 times within a 24 hour period and still could have watched it a 4th. The one movie that any time it is on TV in any way, I will sit down and watch the whole thing despite the length of this movie being a shade under 3 hours. The movie that could make me cry in several different spots. This movie being none other than "Braveheart". Yes, another Mel Gibson movie. And the movie that holds the quote that this blog is entitled for: at the end when William Wallace shouts with all that he has left, the one thing that he has given everything fighting for... Freedom!!! I love this movie.

The quote that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MOST in this movie is at the beginning, when, in a dream, William Wallace's dad says to him as a little boy: "Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it." And I bring that up because that is what I want to talk about as the meat of this blog. Except, I have a different quote that lays closer to the bone. And that is from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, verses 13 and 14 where he says:

"For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use your freedom as a pretext for living according to the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law finds its fullness in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

This... This is what life is all about. For the greatest gift, I believe, that God has given us all is the gift of life. And, just after that, the greatest gift He has given us is the freedom to choose. That we were called to freedom. That one word William Wallace yells at the end of "Braveheart". The thing that resides on all our hearts, we must have the courage to follow it. The thing that justifies the first greatest gift God has given us, our own life. Freedom.

My question is: How are you living this freedom?

Are you living it as Paul exhorts us not to? According to the flesh? Are you living your freedom in such a way that you give into the desires and wants of the flesh? Are you freely feeding the disordered desires of your heart? Giving into whatever sensual cravings your bodily being desires? Whether that be lust, or gluttony, or sloth, or greed, or envy, or anger, or pride? Selfishly seeking and doing what you can to please yourself so that you can be "happy" or "fulfilled"... This "freedom" ends up being more of an enslavement, for how many of us are enslaved to these desires and choose them out of our attachments to them rather than out of the freedom of our own heart.

Or do you live a heroic freedom? A freedom that brings others to tears as they witness with wonder and awe? A freedom that movies glorify to make epics that captivate audiences? A freedom that brings true fulfillment and true happiness? A freedom that imitates the very act of our God made man in Jesus Christ? The freedom to sacrifice...

As I thought of all the movies that make me cry, I couldn't help but wonder why these films would bring me to tears. And, I realized, that in every movie, in every scene that would make me cry, it was because of one thing. Sacrifice. The character freely choosing to sacrifice for the good of another. Every time I witness this act, I get all choked up.

For once, Hollywood has gotten something right. And that is that they have realized this truth. The beauty of sacrifice, and freely choosing this. They have realized how this has been written on the human heart. As St. Paul says "For you were called to freedom..." We have all been called to this freedom to sacrifice and it is written on our hearts. And it was lived out for us in the greatest way imaginable with God made man offering Himself up freely for the sake of all of us on the Cross with Jesus Christ's Crucifixion. This heroic love. As Christ Himself says: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15: 13)

This is heroic love... This is true freedom... This is what we are called to... This is what fulfills us...

If we live our freedom in a way where we "live according to the flesh", we will end up enslaved and unfulfilled. Our freedom will be taken away from us, and we will be constantly searching for joy and happiness and never finding it.

But, if we have the courage to live out our freedom in such a way where we truly sacrifice ourselves out of love for another. If we love our neighbor as we love ourself. If we choose to live for others and love others in such a way where we sacrifice feeding the desires of our flesh, to feed the freedom of their hearts and souls, what great fulfillment and joy we will find! What freedom we will live!

Yes, it is hard. And yes, it takes great courage. A hero's courage. But, as I heard in a movie once, nothing worth having comes easy. It is not easy... But it is most certainly worth it!

So again, I ask: How are you living this freedom?

And I end by using that great quote from "Braveheart":

"Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another way

Have you ever met some one that, throughout your encounter with them, there is something in the back of your mind, something on your heart, that is telling you there is something different about this person. Not because they're wearing a shirt that says "It's what's on the inside that counts" and has a picture of a twinkie on it, and they just seem generally awkward in whatever conversation you may be having with them. Not that kind of different. But, a different that causes you a certain peace within your heart. A different that calls you to look inside yourself and see the type of person you are. A different that calls you to transformation and conversion. A different that brings you to another way.

There have been a number of people in my life that I can think of that fit this bill. Whether it was in the first encounter I had with them, or in the relationship that continued after, their influence and their heart called me to something more. I may not have realized it at that particular moment, but i certainly can recall it later. This in a way reminds me of what people have said about Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II after they have met them. I've heard a few people mention their encounters with these incredible human beings, and what they all mention is the gaze they had when talking to them. They said these two looked at you with such a gaze that it made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to them at that moment in time. WOW! What a gift!?!?! For all the people that those two met day in and day out, for them to look at you as if you were THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD to them... Wow! Of course hearts would be changed with this!

I bring this up because this was my meditation when thinking about the Epiphany! These three wise men, they traveled so far, following a star with great faith, to find themselves before God made man in Jesus Christ. There they worshiped and adored Him and encountered someone that will change their life forever! And after giving the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords their humble gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they traveled back to the land from which they had come. But the thing that really caught me was in the scriptures where it says "they departed for their country by another way." (Matthew 2: 12). Certainly this was because God warned them in a dream about Herod, so they left in a different way, but still, they went another way after their encounter with Christ...

Then I started realizing that this was what an encounter with Jesus Christ called for... "another way". You look at all the encounters with Jesus Christ in the Gospels and you realize that every encounter He had, the other person, or persons, was called to "another way". Think about it. Ever since the Incarnation of Christ, every one of His encounters calls the other to another way. He called Mary to another way when the Angel Gabriel declared to her that she was to bear the Son of God. Her fiat led her along this different way. He called Joseph to another way in again Gabriel's proclamation in his dream. Joseph was thinking of divorcing Mary quietly to avoid the scandals that would come with her pregnancy, but he went another way because of his encounter with Christ. The Magi, visiting Jesus, as I mentioned before, left by another way. I'm sure the shepherds, when they returned to their home from visiting the Christ child as they were "praising God for all they had heard and seen" started to see life in another way. I'm sure that Simeon and Anna in the temple at Jesus' presentation began to worship in another way after their encounter with Jesus. No doubt the preaching of John the Baptist began another way after he had baptized his own savior and messiah Jesus in the Jordan.

What about the call of the Apostles? Approaching Simon and Andrew in their boats, along with James and John, to become fishers of men. Simon recognized this when he mentions to Jesus "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Yet, Jesus insisted, and they left everything and followed him on another way. Or Matthew, a tax collector, called from his post to follow Christ on this way. The man who was full of leprosy. From one encounter with Jesus Christ, he was made clean, and no doubt his life was lived in another way. There were plenty of others who for sure were called to another way from their encounter with Jesus. Nicodemus the Pharisee, Levi the tax collector, the Samaritan woman at the well, Martha and Mary and Lazarus, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the short tax collector, the man born blind, the centurion and his servant, the man with a withered hand, the mute person, the 5,000 or 4,000 he fed with loaves and fish, and the list goes on and on and on... No doubt each of these individuals and groups of people, after encountering Jesus, continued on another way.

What would these encounters have been like? To meet a man who "did all things well", who "felt pity" on many, who inspired faith with the way He loved. What would each of these encounters look like? For me in particular I think of the encounter of the woman caught in adultery, one of my favorite encounters with Christ. This woman, caught in the VERY ACT OF ADULTERY by the scribes and Pharisees, the very leaders of their faith, was brought before the man Jesus Christ, the one who taught with such authority, who loved with such compassion, the one who did miraculous, unexplainable things, God made man... She was thrown on the ground before Him... Certainly tears streaming from her eyes... Hearing the Pharisees explain that through the law of Moses, she should be stoned to death. Who even knows. Maybe this was the first time she had even committed adultery, maybe it was one of many, and yet, she finds herself, before Jesus Christ, on the verge of death in her shame... No doubt she knew that Jesus was a righteous man and knew the law very well! Maybe she even knew the law of Moses and understood that she would be condemned to death if she were caught. She was probably expecting Him to agree along with the Pharisees. Yet, when He was pushed to respond, He straightens up and says "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."... And slowly, one by one, all the Pharisees and scribes, starting with the elders, went away till she was there, on the ground, in the dirt, left alone with God Himself in Jesus Christ. A moment went by. How long this moment must have felt for this woman on the ground... Feeling fear, shame, despair, in the face of death before all these people to a feeling of wonderment, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding... Then, Jesus straightened up, and what gets me is I just imagine Him lifting His head to look at her, and catching her eyes with this gaze of love, compassion, mercy, this look as if she is the most important person in the world to Him at that moment and He says "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?". To which she replies "No one, sir." And the Incarnate Word, God made man, Jesus Christ, the only one on this whole earth who truly knows this woman, who truly knows her heart and her intentions, and her desire to be loved and feel lovely, the only one who could truly condemn her for He truly knows her actions and knows her intentions, this one says: "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more." Try to tell me, that after this encounter, this woman left living her life the same way she did before... THERE IS NO WAY!!! She most certainly continued on another way! A way in which she knew the love God had for her, the mercy in His heart, and the beauty that she has in being his creation. She no doubt went on another way. She was transformed at that moment, or maybe a little later, because of her encounter with Christ.

This is what an encounter with Christ calls for. Conversion... Transformation... Questioning in your heart who you are and what you were created for. A calling to another way. There were some who encountered Christ, but from the hardness of their hearts, they did not allow themselves to meet the true person that is Christ and the relationship that was waiting for them. There was the rich man who asks Jesus "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" to which Christ replies "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments:..." and He goes on to share some of them. Yet, the rich man replies "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." And the scripture continues; "Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, 'You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions." This rich young man was too concerned about what he had to "do" to inherit eternal life. He was not willing to recognize the person that is God. He was more interested in doing what he had to in order to get what he wanted. That is why, I believe Jesus tested him in saying "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." He was testing him to see if he truly knew the person that Jesus was. And Christ looked at him, His very look was an act of love, as it says "Jesus, looking at him, loved him..." And out of this love, He called this man to conversion, to give up his relationship with his things and enter into a relationship with Him. But this man could not do it. He didn't understand the power of relationship. He especially did not understand what it meant to BE in relationship with God, for he could not DO anything to achieve that. So he left, face fallen, sad... The same way he came...

Still there were others... What about the number of Pharisees and scribes and elders who were too set in their ways and who held hardened hearts of pride, that kept them from recognizing the divinity in the humanity of Jesus Christ? They were too concerned with the laws of God and the prophecies of God and their knowledge of God to understand the importance of RELATIONSHIP with God. So there was no conversion from their encounters with God in Jesus Christ, for there was no relationship, only competition. Their way remained the same.

Or, how about the many disciples, who after hearing the Bread of Life discourse from Jesus Christ Himself, decided to "return to their former way of life and no longer accompany" Christ? This large group, (who knows how many? The Gospel of John just mentions "many of his disciples", but you could imagine it being a big group) who devoted their life to be a "disciple" of Christ and follow Him and His way, could not handle the idea of having a relationship with God so great that they would even consume Him in the most intimate of ways through the Eucharist. They could not comprehend that He truly meant that and truly called them to that. That was calling for faith far greater than they could handle. So, what did they do? They returned to their "former way"...

Some people, you question why they don't believe in God... Why they feel so alone... Why they are so discouraged and live in such despair... Why they continue living a life of sin despite KNOWING this way is self-destructive... Why they can not seem to love others but live with such hate and rage in their hearts... Why they live for the things of this world and feel unfulfilled if they do not have their "things"... Have they not met Christ? Maybe, at some point, they did meet Jesus Christ along their way, but because of their experiences of hate and anything but love, they cannot recognize Him, for they know not love. Or maybe they weren't called to a relationship with a loving Christ, but instead felt called to follow a taskmaster who wanted us to do "what was right" rather than live in His love. Or maybe they, out of such discouragement and despair in their hearts, felt they could not live a life that another way was calling them to, that they weren't good enough or strong enough, or smart enough, or loving enough, that they weren't worth it. Whatever it is... They continue living their way instead of another way towards Christ. And I believe, in some way, that is because they did not truly meet the PERSON of JESUS CHRIST.

Encountering the person of God calls for living another way. There are many people in this life who meet this. Who find the person of Christ in some way, and understand the call to another way, and despite the difficulties that they could see accompanying it, (whether that be giving up what you don't want to give up, or following despite the strong desire to live as you've always known, or the large demands of faith it will undoubtedly call you to) continue to follow this different way. These people meet the PERSON of CHRIST and allow His GAZE to look into their hearts and confirm in them not only their weakness, but more importantly their overwhelming GOOD, and recognize that along with all the weakness and all the good, HE STILL LONGS TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM, and they allow God to love them in this way. And those people go on to personify Jesus Christ to the world, like Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II, and the many saints before them, and still the many saints we meet in this life who look into our eyes, and for that moment, it is as if it is no longer that person who is looking at us but the person of Christ Himself. And they call us to relationship not with them necessarily, but to relationship with our Creator, our Redeemer, our Comforter, our GOD, JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF. They call us to live another way. And our lives are changed forever...

My prayer for you and for me is that we can be people of another way. That we can meet the person of Jesus Christ, and feel the call to live another way, and fulfill that call to live another way despite our weakness and because of our good, and then become people so transformed through our conversion from the person of Christ that we become people who look into the eyes of every human being we encounter, and they no longer see our gaze looking back at them, but the GAZE OF JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF...

Let us all live in this way. So that there may be no one on this earth who could claim that they have not met the person of Jesus Christ. So that every human being created may live in another way.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Momma's boy

I have a confession to make. This may come to a great surprise to many of you. You may think to yourself "But, he's so tough and rugged! How can that be?" Or your thoughts may be, "How can such a self-made independent man as he claim such a thing?!?" Many of you are probably thinking, "He's way too insensitive and disconnected with his feelings..." Despite what your thoughts are, it's true. I shall admit to the world now that I am truly, 100%, a momma's boy. Sure, I've chopped down trees with an ax before. And yes, I have grown a beard. And certainly, I've lifted my share of weights in my life time. But the truth is, I, Chris "Cdubsalot" Walters, am a MOMMA'S BOY.

I will argue you till I am blue in the face that I have ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT, the BEST MOTHER IN THE WHOLE WORLD! Yes, my mother, Sharon Kay Walters, is the best mother a guy could ever ask or even pray for! In my mind, she is a saint! (Think about it, going 25 years as my mother? She'd have to be! And not because I'm an advocate to her redemptive suffering, but because when you live with a saint for that long, you become one. haha, seewhatididthere?) I'm not just saying this in hopes of her reading this blog post and possibly winning brownie points from her, which might lead to an even nicer Christmas gift from her in approximately 11 days. I am saying this because I believe it is the truth! And that is what leads me to be a "momma's boy". When you live with such a woman, her taking care of you and your every need, loving you through all your failures, praising and encouraging you in all your successes, supporting you through every decision, and in the end, always willing to give up whatever she may need to in order to help or serve, you become that woman's biggest fan! That is who my mother is for me, my three siblings, and my very blessed father. I have no doubt too that she prays for every single one of us every single day with all her heart. Any guy with a mother as her would inevitably become a momma's boy!

Here are a few examples of her love throughout my 25 years:
- First of all, she had 4 kids within a 5 year span from Sept. 28, 1980- July 2, 1985. Holy Moly! How does someone handle 4 toddlers/infants in such a loving way?!?!
- She loved us through 6 different moves ranging from, Lawrence, KS, Washington state, Las Vegas, Nevada, Guam, Monterey, California, Mundelein, Illinois, and Back to Kansas! Pops was in the Navy, and she was along for the ride!
- Traveling with 4 kids younger than 10 several times... That is definitely a feat in and of itself! Especially when we drove from Monterey, California to Hay, KS for summer vacations visiting the family. That long in a minivan? Are you serious?!?!
- She made me my lunch for school EVERY SCHOOL DAY OF MY LIFE!!! (not college though, even though I wish she did) And I ALWAYS had the best lunch! Those brown paper sacks would be so packed, I'd have to rip them open rather than stick my hand in to pull out each separate item. There was no room for the hand.
- She was (and still is) the GREATEST HOSTESS! She would always make sure that when anybody would visit our house, whether family or friend, they would be taken care of! Even when my high school friends would spend the night in the basement playing perfect dark on the 64 and drinking soda after soda, she'd bring down the best cheese dip and chips every time! And when we'd leave a note on the counter that sounded a little something like this: "Dear Mother, If there so happened to be french toast for breakfast in the morning, we would so happen to eat it. Sincerely, guys downstairs" There would always be french toast that was DELICIOUS! Ask my friends. They'd agree.
- When I had appendicitis the year I spent as a volunteer at the Catholic campus center at KU in Lawrence, she drove with my dad all the way to Lawrence to pick me up and bring me to the emergency room back in Kansas City, just because I told her on the phone my stomach really hurt and I couldn't hold down food. She then spent pretty much the whole night in the hospital with me.
- I could go on and on with examples, but to just end, I'd like to share that I have no doubt that she prays for each of her kids and her husband every day with one of the biggest hearts I've ever known. You could never find a mother who is more proud of her children and would do anything for them then my mother!

So, I have the best mother in the world and I'm a momma's boy... Big Deal! Way to brag Chris! Why would you blog about this? Well, that's because, despite saying that I have the best mother in the world and I would never argue that, there is a mother that is truly better than her in every aspect. In fact, this mother is one that far surpasses her love and her willingness to serve and help her children in any way she can. She even has WAY MORE children then my mother. She would lay down her life in any and every aspect she could to help her children succeed. Who might I be talking about? None other than the Mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Mother of all the living, the Mother of us all, Mother Mary. Mary is without a doubt the greatest mother any one could ever ask for, dream for, pray for, and she truly is the mother of us all! When Jesus, from the cross, entrusted His mother to John, the beloved disciple, and John to her, she became the mother of us all! She is our mother, and we definitely should take advantage of that.

I am DEFINITELY a momma's boy for Mary as well! I just recently completed the total consecration to Jesus through Mary from St. Louis Marie de Montfort for probably the 5th time on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a day celebrating the fact that Mary was kept from sin at her birth because she was conceived Immaculately, and kept to be the ultimate Theotokos, the God Bearer, the one who was to give birth to God incarnate. I was very excited for this feast day (I meant to post this blog on that day, but didn't get it done...) and was excited four days later, on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! I ask Mary for help every single day, praying the Memorare more than I could admit. And every morning, when I offer my day up to God after I wake up, I also entrust my day unto Mary, praying that she intercedes for me and guides me closer to her son Jesus Christ.

Why am I such a momma's boy? And why should you even be a momma's boy or girl? Because all the love that your own mother has for you, all the things she gives up and sacrifices to help you succeed, all the passion, joy, patience, and mercy she loves you with, Mary encompasses to a degree that is FAR BEYOND OUR COMPREHENSION!!! As much as my mom has done for me, Mother Mary has far exceeded that in my spiritual journey and spiritual formation! And she wants this FOR EVERY ONE OF HER CHILDREN! She wants to help you succeed! She wants to help you know her Son Jesus Christ, and her Father in Heaven, and her Spouse the Holy Spirit. She wants to help you grow into the saint you were created to be! She desires your salvation more than you could understand! And if you but ask her for her help and ask her for her prayers, she will be faithful for no one has ever shown such faith as Mary in her ultimate yes to God, her fiat before the angel Gabriel at the annunciation. She loves you, and she would do whatever she can to help you along the path to salvation.

I know I've gone on much longer than some of you would like, which isn't unusual, but to wrap this up, and to end my campaign to convince you to become a momma's boy or girl for Mary like I am, I will share with you a story that has truly helped me in my relationship and understanding of Mary. It was share to me by a dear friend, who is truly intelligent, and has a great heart for Mary:

"Imagine that you are a little toddler. You can walk on your own, and your growing up fast! You and your mother head to the airport to take a flight. You're going to visit your father who is in a different city right now waiting for you. As you get to the airport, your mother realizes you are running late. You can tell by her quick steps that span a far greater distance and at a quicker pace than your little legs can handle. But you do your best to try and keep up. She's holding your hand as you both move through the airport briskly, and despite the hurried pace, she grasps it with such a loving, gentle touch that you can just feel her love for you. As you pass through security, she realizes you need to pick it up because you do not have much time before your flight takes off. So she says to you, 'Sweetie, jump into my arms, and I'll carry you to our gate so we make the flight to see your father.' But, you being determined and excited to see your father, you say in return, 'Don't worry mommy! I'll run really fast!'. You continue to run alongside her, but you're still not moving fast enough to make your flight. She says again, 'My child, please let me carry you so that we can go and see your father! I will take you there as quick as I can!' Again, you say, 'But mommy, I can run really fast! Even faster than this! I can do it, don't worry!' And as you travel through the airport, you're still a long distance from your gate, and time keeps slipping away. You hear over the intercom the flight attendant say 'Last call for...' and she mentions your flight. Your mother stops you in your hurried steps, kneels down to look you in the eye and says 'Sweetie, let me carry you. I will run as swiftly as I can, and I will make sure you get to see your father on time. Please, trust me.' You finally concede saying 'Alright mommy, you can carry me.' She then picks you up in her arms, and runs with you in hand to your gate and you make it just in time as they were about to close the doors to your flight. Your mother sits you down in your seat, holding your hand, and you sit there in great anticipation, knowing that you are going to see your father because of the great love of your mother."

This is what it is like for us. We are small. We are incapable. We are weak. And in this lifetime, we have quite the long journey to our Father in Heaven. But we don't have much time! And despite how determined we may be, or how excited we are to be with God in Heaven, we are incapable of getting there ourselves. But, we have a mother, who with all her love and all her heart, desires to pick us up in her loving arms, with her gentle touch, and carry us to our Father. For she knows the way, and her love is powerful enough to make our journey to Him quicker than if we did it on our own. Mary longs to bring us to her Father in Heaven, her Son Jesus Christ, her Spouse the Holy Spirit. She wants us to know their love, and she desires for us this with all her being. If we but entrust ourselves to her, if we would just allow her to carry us, she will. We must make that choice. There is no quicker way to Heaven but through Mary's help, guidance, and intercession. Through her motherly love. For Mother's always know best right!

Please, entrust yourself to your Mother. Jump into her arms, and allow her to carry you to your Father in Heaven! She desires this with all her Immaculate Heart! Every day, offer you day to God, and then entrust it to Mary. When you are in need, ask her for her prayers and assistance. When you are scared or worried, let your Mother hold you in her arms and tell you it's going to be alright, you're going to get through it. When you need strength, let your Mother tell you where your strength lies, and that is in Jesus Christ, her Son. When you need to feel loved, go to her, and she will love you with all her heart. And when you desire to know her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, allow Mary to bring you to Him, cause there is no mother in this world that is more proud to show off her son than Mary.

I pray for you, through the intercession of Mary, my Mother and yours, that you become a momma's boy or girl, just like me.