In this Sunday’s Gospel reading from the 1st Chapter of Mark we hear about Jesus healing the sick and driving out demons. Verse 34 states, “He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” Earlier in Mark 1 when Jesus drove out a demon, the demon said, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
I find it quite interesting that the demons that Jesus drove out of possessed people knew who Jesus was and we see throughout the Gospels that they were terrified of Him. Demons were created as angels by God, but they disobeyed Him. They were given knowledge of God but they didn’t have true faith, they rejected God, and they fell from grace.
I imagine most everyone reading this blog post knows at least something about Jesus. Our entire Catholic faith is based on the fact that Jesus is God and that He became man, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. The point that I want to get across is that it is not enough to just know who Jesus is.
James 2:17-19 explains this by saying, “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone may say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.”
This passage in James goes on to explain that true faith requires works. If we don’t have good works, our faith is as worthless as the faith that the demons have. We get a great example of how to live out true faith in Hebrews chapter 11. I would encourage anyone to take a few minutes and read this passage of Scripture. Hebrews 11 goes through the Old Testament telling us about heroes of the faith such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and several others. It explains the great faith of these Old Testament men and women. The entire emphasis of the chapter is on faith but the reasons given for these people’s great faith are their works. It says that by faith Noah built an ark and Moses left Egypt. Would Noah have had faith if he said God I believe you but I’m not going to build the ark? I’m going to say no that’s not true faith!
In closing, remember that it is great to know about Jesus and what he did while he was on earth, but to be a true follow of His we all need to be obedient to Him and live out our faith through our actions.
What are you doing and where are you going? The New Year can overwhelm us with the newest ways to get organized, drop weight, and accomplish goals. But is it a distraction from where we need to go?
The readings this Sunday point us in a direction that does not disappoint. I honestly feel like the Psalm 25 is the PERFECT PRAYER For 2018!
R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Teach me your ways, O Lord. The perfect, honest statement that starts us on the right track. The psalm shows us what God does when we ask him to show us His ways. He “shows sinners the way, guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way.” This is a prayer that is guaranteed to be answered.
BUT are we willing to listen to Him. After he answers your prayer and shows you His way, will you, like Peter and Andrew in the Gospel, abandon your nets and follow him? I know we aren’t fishermen, but we all have a net. We all have a passion, a profession, a way of life (organization projects, school work, careers, whatever!). So if God calls us to something different, would you abandon your nets to follow him?
This Sunday's readings are PERFECT timing for us. I'm not sure about you, but I set New Year's Resolutions for myself but usually mull it over until the second week or so of January before I even decide what I am working towards! When reading the first reading, my heart smiled. Of course this is what I need to work on... LISTENING and following His will. Every second of every day.
Where to start... You DONT have to be a saint to be able to hear God either. It truly doesn’t matter how close or how far away you are from Him. For example, Samuel in our first reading, “was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.” Samuel didn't even recognize God's voice. Perhaps he didn’t know his purpose. But he surrounded himself with good people who did know God (Eli) and Eli told Samuel that GOD was calling him! Do we surround ourselves with faithful people who know God?
After talking to Eli, Samuel listened to the Lord and here’s the most important thing: He told God he was listening. God speaks to us regularly, but do we listen. Do we try? Maybe we think that God’s plan for us will make us unhappy, like that he wants us to pray all day or something. Sounds pretty boring right? Maybe he didn’t make your heart for that. Maybe he made your heart to meet new people and love them for who they are. Maybe he made your heart to encourage and support others quietly, through loyalty and devotion. Maybe he made your heart to teach others about beauty in the world.
You see, each new year people take a step back and re-aligned their lives according to what they think is important: losing weight, eating right, not wasting (as much) time on snap chat, not gossiping, etc. But what if we re-aligned our lives according to what GOD calls us to, to what HE thinks is important.
Here’s the surprise, though. God created us and therefore KNOWS what will fulfill us and make us happy. The Psalm for Sunday says, “to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!" You see, when we are good, we are free-we are happy, joyful, even. But when we make something else more important than God and his will for us, we become distracted. When we are distracted, we float from thing to thing, searching for fulfillment and purpose, and always come up empty.
In the Gospel today, I think some disciples were searching for this peace, this fulfillment, this truth. And when they met Jesus, they asked him for it. He responded, “Come and you will see.”
So for 2018, let’s realign our hearts, minds and bodies towards something bigger, something better, something more unexpected, something perfect. Let’s listen to Him, hearts and ears open.
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.
As we approach the end of the Christmas season, we celebrate The Epiphany of the Lord and remember the wise men’s visit to see Baby Jesus. This Epiphany Sunday will be special for me because I am going to a friend’s Confirmation and 1st Communion. Adults, like my friend, who convert to Catholicism often receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and 1st Communion at the same time. Attending my friend’s Confirmation will have special meaning to me because it is at the Church I was confirmed at less than three years ago and will bring back many good memories. As many of you approach your Confirmation, I want to recall to you the very short version of why I converted to Catholicism and why that matters to you.
I grew up in a great, faith-filled Evangelical family. We went to church on Sundays and I attended youth group on Wednesdays. Faith was always a big part of our family life, and I never had any reason or desire to learn about what the Catholic Church teaches. Then, my world was rocked when I met my now wife Kendra! I started dating her even though she was Catholic! I still had no desire or intention of being Catholic and even told Kendra, “I will never be Catholic!”. As we dated longer and our relationship got more serious, me being Protestant and her Catholic became more of an issue. Kendra was adamant that if we were to get married and have kids, our kids would be raised Catholic. I respected what she had to say but didn’t like it. I couldn’t in good faith raise my children to believe something that I didn’t even believe in. Eventually I wanted to learn more about the Catholic Church to see if I could somehow make things work raising Catholic children as an Evangelical Protestant.
I went to mass a lot with Kendra while we were dating (even though a lot of the time I wasn’t overly interested in being there), and I think very slowly, sometimes without even realizing it, I started overcoming misconceptions and seeing things I appreciated about the Catholic Church. Kendra had given me the book Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn and it sat on my shelf unread for a very long time. One night out of the blue I decided to start reading it. That book opened my eyes to wanting to learn more about what the Catholic Church really taught. The book was written by a former Protestant pastor who was very anti-Catholic but had converted to Catholicism. He initially had no desire to be Catholic but through a lot of prayer and study came to recognize the truth and beauty in the Catholic Church. After reading that book, I was ready to learn more. (On a side note, if you are looking for a book that will help you appreciate your Catholic faith more, I would highly recommend Rome Sweet Home. Let me know if you’d like to borrow my copy of the book!)
By God’s grace and after a lot of study, I came to the point where I realized Catholicism is either right and it’s all right and every Christian should be Catholic or if it’s wrong it’s way wrong and I should have nothing to do with it! By that time, I knew it wasn’t way wrong, so it didn’t leave me much of an option! The other thing I realized was I could study Catholic doctrines and Protestant doctrines for years and years to fully understand things and feel comfortable with knowing everything I could about Catholicism. Or I could accept that Jesus established one Church (as shown in the Bible) and gave that Church authority and protection to be free from error in its doctrinal teachings. If I was comfortable with that one teaching of Catholicism, that meant that every other teaching was also true. While it’s obviously still important to know the theology behind Catholic doctrines, accepting the authority of the Church made it less necessary to get buried in the details of proving every doctrine true.
The Eucharist was another huge part of my conversion. If you accept what the Catholic Church teaches about the Eucharist (that Jesus is really present), you can’t really justify not being Catholic! Looking at Scripture passages that I hadn’t paid attention to before really helped me understand the Eucharist such as the following verses from John 6:53-58:
“Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The writings of the Early Church Fathers that show the early Church held the same belief about the Eucharist as Catholics hold today and Eucharistic miracles throughout history also opened my eyes to the truth in the Catholic beliefs regarding the Eucharist.
After learning what the Catholic Church actually is and actually teaches, I felt like I didn’t have any other option. I had to be Catholic! I followed God’s will for my life on His terms and not mine, and that led me to joining the Catholic Church. I remember the joy I had because I knew I was being Christ’s disciple. I left some of the first masses I attended after my Confirmation with a smile on my face because I knew I was home and where I was supposed to be.
In closing, I hope you remember that you are part of the one true Church that Jesus founded and recognize how blessed you are to be part of a family that raised you in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the fullness of truth that God has revealed to man and contains so many graces for us all to receive, and God has picked us to be disciples of His in that church! As you prepare for Confirmation, I hope you appreciate the blessing that the Catholic Church is. This is the Church that Jesus founded 2000 years ago, and while the Church is full of sinners because we all sin, Jesus gave us the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. His Church and His true disciples will ultimately be faithful to the truth and will conquer death! You are all part of that Church through your baptism, but it is your choice to stay faithful to God and to daily answer God’s call to holiness.
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.