True Friendship 

True Friendship 

Pleasant speech multiplies friends, and gracious lips, friendly greetings. 

Let those who are friendly to you be many, but one in a thousand your confidant. 

When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not be quick to trust them. 

For there are friends when it suits them, but they will not be around in time of trouble.

Another is a friend who turns into an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your disgrace.

Others are friends, table companions, but they cannot be found in time of affliction.

When things go well, they are your other self, and lord it over your servants.

If disaster comes upon you, they turn against you and hide themselves.

Stay away from your enemies, and be on guard with your friends.

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure.

Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.

Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be. (Sirach 6:5-17)

The book of Sirach offers all of us rich wisdom and is one of my favorite books in the Bible to contemplate. 

My human weakness, tested against the storms of time, often fails to live up to a professed Christianity. Perhaps, Sirach will light a path for future “adjustments” in behavior. Lent, being a time of repentance and reflection, is an excellent time to reread this prophetic text and measure my actions against it. 

JMJ, pray for us! 

The verses quoted above remind me of the wise words of a good priest and friend. A few years back he gave me great advice, “Everyone needs close friends, but a only very few in number.” He went on to explain that we should keep our closest relationships to a few.  

Even Christ, who was both God and man, desired to have close friendships. It is clear from the New Testament that Christ reserved his closest friendships for Peter, James and John.  Jesus’ own actions give us a guide to friendships their value and limitations. At the foot of the cross, of the three, only John remained steadfast. 

As I reread the verses quoted above, one phrase stands out amongst the others:

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. (Sirach 6-14) 

The words “sturdy shelter” defines, for me, what it means to be a true friend. This measurement of friendship reveals itself in our most difficult of times. At the foot of the cross St. John stood by Jesus in his most difficult hour. 

As we search for true friendship, our search should include Jesus. He will always measure up to this test of friendship. His friendship is a gift of grace freely given to all of us who seek it. 

A friendship with Christ is a relationship developed over time and tested by storms. Jesus will always be there for us

God is good.

Mary, The Mother of God: Our Guide to Christ 


The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-28)

Image being a young betrothed girl in the Middle East, praying alone in your room and having an angel tell you that you are going to have a child that was not your husband’s. Most of our responses would have been a resounding, “no!” We would have clearly understood the risks of being alone and pregnant at the time. 

The possibility of being stoned to death for adultry was a great risk. Rejection by her orthodox Jewish community was almost an inevitability. She would have wondered if her husband, a man of great honor, would accept her in his home? 

All of these thoughts must have run through her pure and holy mind in a matter of seconds. And yet, without fear or reservation, Mary accepted this eternal role as Mother God. Her willingness to risk everything and become one with Christ was the ultimate act of humility, trust and love.

A life of prayer and holiness must have prepared Mary to give herself to Father, Son and Holy Spirit in this perfected act of love. With a simple “yes” Mary became our guide to unity with her Son. 

Three basic lessons emerge for us from our Mother, Mary. 

  • Pray without ceasing.
  • Give our will in totality to Christ.
  • Love without reservation.

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

God, grant us the grace to see and follow the Divine will of Your Son. JMJ, pray for us! 

God is good!

“You Are My Beloved Son”


And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) 

In this Divine revelation Jesus is revealed to us as our God, Lord and our loving brother. 

How profound is it that God the Father claims us as His children and Jesus is our brother?!

We are all sons and daughters of the Father created so that we can share eternal bliss with God in heaven. This is the ultimate will of our Father in heaven. 

We are truly His children, created in His image and good at the core of our soul.

For this I pray: 

Lord, give me the grace to be a man of Your holy Will. Grant this same grace to all who desire it. JMJ, pray for us.

“Forever the joy!”

God is good. 

Jay 

Finding a Forgiving Heart 


Finding a Forgiving Heart

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

I believe by our nature, men, including Jesus, are story tellers. We tell stories to make a point or to define our place in history.

Often these stories paint a picture of our past and our future. Many of us can fondly remember countless narratives passed on by our own fathers. These tales teach us lessons about life, history, family and sometimes faith. My father was no different and still to this day loves telling a great tale.

I can remember, as a boy, my dad telling us kids a story of how, when he was about eight years old, he got into trouble for throwing rocks at the chickens behind the family’s grocery store. Thinking he had killed the chickens, he hid their remains in the outhouse “hole” behind the corner store.  

Sparing the gory details, it suffices to say the chickens were not dead and the subsequent of the retrieval of the live chickens from the hole in the ground made for a gross and hilarious tale with a great life lesson: When you make a mistake, admit your mistake and take responsibility for it. The consequences will surely be less “burdensome” if you take responsibility sooner than later. This is a lesson I remember to this day.  

Jesus also teaches us, much in the same way, with parables throughout the Gospels. His stories give us an opportunity to relate and understand lessons based on our own human experiences. Undoubtedly, some of these parables were likely passed to Jesus by His own foster father, Joseph.

The parable of the forgiving Master, God, and the unforgiving servant, me, is particularly poignant today as I look around at our circumstances. The “world” attacks us because we may not conform to “it’s” perilous views. The “little one” sows discord and anger in the hopes of dragging more souls down into the pit of hell. 

Often, I feel indicted by my own unwillingness to forgive. In the Gospel, Jesus does not tell me that forgiveness must be requested by the offender. He tells me to forgive seventy-seven times.

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

My own flawed human reaction says, “Ok God, but that is a lot of times.”  

To forgive does not mean I go back for more mistreatment. It does mean, however, I must let go of the anger or resentment I am holding onto after having been wronged. For most of us, myself included, letting go of anger can be very difficult. On the advice of a good priest received in the confessional, I have learned to take a few simple steps. 

  1. Love them to conversion. In other words, pray for the offender and be kind in all circumstances. 
  2. Do my best to move along from the injury by not talking and thinking about it. If I find myself drawn into a conversation about the offense, change the topic or remain silent.  
  3. Do not put myself in further circumstances which will add to the offense. If the offender chooses to continue to hurt you, be polite, cordial and move along from there.  
  4. Lastly, bind this suffering to the Cross of Christ. When meditating on the crucifixion, we can see how Jesus offered Himself willingly for ALL of our sins. 

This lent, as the storm, fed by the wrath and chaos of the world, explodes around us, I pray God grants me a more forgiving heart.

If Jesus, hanging from the cross at His last breath, can ask God to forgive His torturers, surely He will give me the grace to forgive, now and in the future, others and myself.

[Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”] They divided his garments by casting lots. (Luke 23:33)

  • Forgiveness is freedom.  
  • Forgiveness is peace. 
  • Forgiveness is mercy. 
  • Forgiveness is hope. 
  • Forgiveness is love. 

God is good. 

Humility – The Path to Heaven 


“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

Pray

Lord,

King of Kings,

Creator of all,

Dash my pride on the rocks of life.

Humble shall I walk into Your place of rest.

Lord, help me change the world by one humble act of service.

JMJ, pray for us.

 
The world around us promotes pride and arrogance. Shouting out, “How great are you? Show me, show me?”

Humility is the antidote to pride. Christ reminds us greatness is measured by those who serve.

If we are to change the world for the better, we must start by serving the ones closest to us.

Love Those Who are Hard for You to Love…


But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:44-48)

Today, it seems, many seek to mariginalize those they disagree with by attacking, calling names or denigrating the opposing person’s view. This is not love.

Today’s gospel reminds us that Our Father in Heaven expects us to love those who attack us.

Digging deep within our soul to love those that hate us or treat us hatefully is one of the many steps toward the perfected love referenced in today’s gospel.

Sometimes finding the ability to love in these instances can also be excruciatingly difficult.

To quote St. Augustine – “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.”

Lent is a time for us to grow in our love for Christ and all of those around us.

God Bless,

Jay

Turn The Other Cheek?

Turn The Other Cheek?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

Throughout the world the phrase “Turn the other cheek” is tossed out as a common response when we have been wronged by another person. At Mass Sunday, our pastor enlighten our parish about this passage in the proper historical context. 

Given the coarseness of society today, it is time to take a deeper look at the meaning of this passage in its historical and bold context.

Imagine a servant 2000 years ago standing up boldly, unwavering as his master slapped him across the face. This stone faced resistance would have been seen as a bold act of peaceful defiance and would have emboldened his fellow servants to peacefully resist mistreatment. In His infinite wisdom, Christ chose the word “strike” not punch, beat up, bully or any other more aggressive synonyms. He does not expect us to become passive or submissive at signs of abuse.

At the time of Christ it was unheard of to demand a person’s tunic.  The tunic was an undergarment a person would sleep in, wore for days on end and was most likely somewhat soiled. A “cloak” in the time of Christ was an essential outer garment. A cloak offered shelter to a person in ways we can not understand today. The cloak was worn for warmth, protection against the sun and harsh elements. It was as valuable as a person’s home. Imagine the Jewish crowd chuckling out loud at thought of someone standing holding a dirty, soiled tunic and a person’s cloak that had been given to them willingly. A case of peaceful, bold defiance.

Christ’s audience also knew a Roman centurion could legally force anyone to carry his bags for one mile. Any distance beyond a mile would have caused the centurion to be in violation of Roman law and likely get him in significant trouble. By this point in Christ’s exhortation the crowd was probably laughing out loud at the thought of the Roman centurion running alongside the person he had forced into service begging for his bags back so that he would not get in trouble. Peaceful, bold defiance.

How can we apply this today?

We have all been confronted by people who are combative and perhaps even acting evil. Christ does not call us to roll over and let people harm us. Christ, in the Gospel, calls us to a bold, peaceful response that will make a statement on the side of good. 

God is good.

#faith #inspiration #Catholic #Christian