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Lighthouse February 13, 2024

Love, is Faithful

That love is truly free, total, faithful, and fruitful. We have been considering the scripture 'husbands, love your wives as God loves His church'. We considered how it must be totally free in one's ability to give of oneself. God freely chose us and our response in faith must likewise be a free choice. Faith cannot be coerced. Then last week we considered how it is total. Our lord gave his total life for us. There is no half way and so in response He says that we must 'be hot or cold'. We cannot be lukewarm in our love for Him if we are to love the lord with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole being. Husbands and wives giving themselves to each other in that way give great witness of God's love. Today we want to look at faithful. When one enters a covenant, which marriage is, it calls for a lifetime of fidelity 'till death do us part'. Sometimes it is easy to fail at this, especially when we put other things, other people as a priority. As one lady said when her husband went out playing cards every Sunday night, 'I didn't marry you so I could live alone.' Of course, there is a place for girls, or guys night out when couples mutually agree on it and safeguard their own togetherness. How great it is to have date nights or couples outings. Then, in looking at fidelity, something that has to be addressed is what has become a plague in modern times, especially with social media and internet. That is the issue of pornography. That would be, in terms of marriage, taking false gods. There is no question that the temptations available today far outrank those of 500 years ago, or even 100 years ago. It almost always begins with what some want to call soft porn as some of the early magazines portrayed themselves. But porn, like any other addiction, and it is an addiction, demands more and more. Then it demands rougher and more debasing. This is why it is unfaithful. Jesus says that anyone who looks at another with lust commits adultery. In all porn there is the objectifying of the other person. People become objects and even one's spouse will be seen and treated as an object. Sex becomes, as one book on child care says, recreational. It is no longer a reliving of the commitment two lovers make on their marriage night. When one becomes objectified they know it with their whole being and it begins to destroy the true intimacy they once desired in their life. Pornography, because it is as much of a brain destroying addiction as any drug. Science is proving this to be a fact. It destroys the individual and every relationship that person wants to have. Because it is an addiction, the person needs help and a total surrender to God to become free again. If this touches any of our readers turn to God. Become free of this addiction and rediscover what faithfulness to the person can be. And women, lest you think this is a male problem; think again, visual pornography is growing among women where it was once just verbal pornography that they indulged in. Those kinds of romance books can be just as onerous as visual pornography. Happy Valentine's Day  

Lighthouse February 6, 2024

Love is total
When we read: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved his church and gave himself up for her.” In
Eph. 5:25 we learn all we ever need for a marriage preparation. We are called to look at the 2000 year
history of the Father loving his people. There were a few times when scripture says that God would love
to have abandoned His people and start over, as with Moses. But He didn't. God is totally committed to
the covenant He made with Abraham. That's what a covenant is; till death do us part. When God became
man in Christ it was total self giving. One drop of His blood would have been enough to save the human
race but He choose a way of demonstrating that He was giving all. He endured the suffering of the passion
(flogging, carrying of cross, death on the cross) until He could say: 'It is finished.' That is why I think He
could say: “When I am lifted up on the cross I will draw all people to myself.” Not only did His death
bring salvation to all but when anyone would look upon the cross they would realize how much He loved
us. And so those thinking of marriage or already in marriage need to look at the cross regularly. In doing
so one realizes that marriage is not just an engagement ring; its not just a wedding ring; it also involves
suffer ring. A couple must be making a decision to totally give themselves every day, in sickness and in
health; until death do us part. Sometimes it's easy to think 'Ok, if you are ever threatened or if I have to
go to war I will lay down my life for you. We like to dream the heroic. But what about the little things day
by day. Do I have a line in the sand which says 'Anything in the house to do is yours and anything in the
garage is mine'? That daily dying includes taking care of the baby even though that ball game is at the
high point. Daily dying comes in many ways. If I can't buy into that, or at least not with this person I
should not dare come before society and say 'for richer or for poorer; in sickness or in health; till death do
us part. Marriage demands nothing less. It is that kind of commitment which allows a couple to be at
peace knowing we will get through it. This is the mystery of marriage as Paul says: the two shall become
one. As we think of Valentines, let us recommit ourselves to real love.

 

Lighthouse January 23, 2024

Be angry but don't let anger lead to sin
in 1 Samuel 18:6-9 we hear Saul was very angry and resentful of the song (the women giving greater
praise and victory to David). He was jealous of David and intended to kill him. He was angry. That is
easy to understand. He was jealous. After all he was the king and they were praising this young wipstart
who had just killed Goliath. How often feelings lead to something very wrong. Throughout human
history we have had that problem. Eve saw the fruit of the tree of life and saw it was good. Seeking to be
like God she leads Adam astray; then she blames the devil. Then her son Cain becomes jealous of Abel
and kills him. He then becomes a wanderer. Even David, as great as he was sees a beautiful woman and
looks at her long enough to begin lusting, then commits adultery, then gets her husband killed. Were any
of these feelings wrong? Not in themselves. What could they have done for a different outcome? Saul
could have rejoiced that he had such a soldier as David and shared in his praise. Eve could have
remembered what God said “don't eat this fruit and put her attention on something else. Cain could have
learned from Abel about true prayer and sacrifice from the heart. David could have praised God for the
beauty he created in this woman and been thankful for how fortunate her husband was. We all have
temptations. Someone takes our parking space. A pornographic picture comes across something we were
perusing on the web. Temptations can not be totally avoided, even if you are a monk and live in
seclusion. We can learn from an old Indian story. There is a story about a Cherokee Indian who was
talking to his grandson and told him that we all have two wolfs in us. He said the evil wolf leads us to
envy, jealousy, lust, hate, and so on while the good one leads us to service, love, peace etc. when the
grandson asked him which one wins the grandfather simply said 'the one we feed.' we may not be able to
avoid the temptation but we do have a responsibility for what we do with it. As St. Paul says; 'be angry
but do not let anger lead to sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the
devil' Eph. 4:26. the longer we allow ourselves to nurse the temptation the stronger it will grow and begin
to demand that it is somehow acted out through our bodies. This is why St. Paul also says that we should
never say that we would never do something. How many have said 'I will never be like my father.' and
sure enough they become even worse. Our pride gets the best of us then to make us feel like we are better
than anyone else. We then add judgment to our sins and begin saying 'I can overcome this evil and they
can too.' the old saying: 'there but for the grace of God' is a classic that we need to interiorize in order to
overcome the pride within us and remind us that we all have temptations and failings. As such we do well
to take one day at a time and ask God to give us the grace to turn away from the evil wolf when it appears
and to do something positive to feed the good wolf.

Lighthouse January 9, 2024

We saw His star Mt. 2:2

No, Christmas is not quite over yet. This Sunday we celebrated the Epiphany (revelation). The Hispanics and much of the world puts more emphasis on this day than on Christmas, at least as far a gift giving goes. I remember the first year I was in Mexico City during Christmas season and saw all of the 3 Kings booths for picture taking as we would for Santa Claus. It is with the Magi that we see gift giving. It is with the Magi that we see Christ being revealed to the world and not just to the Jews. It is through the gifts of the Magi we see Jesus being proclaimed king (gold), God (frankincense), myrrh (burial). As mentioned in an earlier article it is through the Magi that we discover one of many ways angels have appeared. In the Old Testament they often appeared as glorified humans. With the shepherds they appeared more as we would depict angels and with the Magi an angel apparently appeared as a light so bright as to be thought a star. God does speak to us in ways we can understand. After all they were into seeking guidance from stars. This was a special one though which was able to direct, not just give general direction as the north star does. It not only gave direction but was able to change direction and lead them back to the southeast from Jerusalem. What happened? Knowing they were coming from the east, why did they seemingly pass right by Bethlehem (just 5 miles SE of Jerusalem) to get to Jerusalem? Could it be that once they got that close they said 'of course, the king would be in Jerusalem and therefore did not pay attention to the star for those few miles which almost became disastrous. It was disastrous, for the families whose young ones were slaughtered. How different it might have been had they gone straight to Bethlehem. We do well to follow the star. What happens to our lives and that of others when we think we know where we are going and take our eyes off the guidance God gives us? Do you ever look up when you think of heaven; we call it the heavens? Like the young man who asked his mom why he always felt happy when he looked up to the skies and she told him it might be because he was looking to go home. Our home is not on this earth. What we look forward to 'eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has in store.' Therefore we need to keep our focus on the star, the angels, the Word of God which leads us to Christ Jesus lest we too bring disaster upon ourselves or others. Again, let us live each day 'anno Domini' in this year of the Lord so we won't have to be concerned with 'when there are no more days.' and 'tomorrow never comes.'  

Lighthouse January 2, 2024

Family

Luke 2:22 “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord: 'Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.. .and Simeon said to Mary his mother, 'behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel,..and you yourself a sword will pierce.''

I don't know about you but the Sunday right after Christmas we always celebrate the gift of the Holy Family. With that we recognize the importance of protecting that most fundamental unit within society, the family. When God created everything else He said it was 'good'. But when He created Adam and Eve He said it was 'very good'. It is, after all the gift of two becoming one that best reflects what the Trinity means in saying 'let us create man in our image and likeness.'' So, what is the first thing Satan tries to destroy? You got it! The family. He first entices Eve to doubt God's word and then uses her to tempt Adam and with that they recognized they were naked, they were no longer totally open to one another, or God. With the Holy Family we discover how to again build family. We notice in the scripture above that Joseph and Mary kept God's law in offering a sacrifice for the first born. They kept God's laws. With Jesus we hear how the Father is displeased with divorce. Jesus says it was not that way in the beginning 'God made them male and female.', 'Let no man separate what God has joined'. To that extent marriage is a divine institution proper for a life-long bond and a framework for raising the next generation. As we look at this new year of the Lord, how do we best overcome Satan's attack on the family and make it the foundation of society it is meant to be? First of all, Like Mary and Joseph we need to obey the commands of God 'Do not forsake the gathering of the assembly on the day of the resurrection'. We need to make time for worship every Sunday and not just when it's convenient. We need to pray as a family heading the old adage 'The family that prays together, stays together'. Maybe, just maybe we need to see the family as sacred enough to see it as having a priority over any other organization or activity. Families need meal times together. Sure, Christmas was wonderful, but once a year is not sufficient for family togetherness. And, finally, for this article, parents need to know that they are responsible, in charge, of everything pertaining to their young people. When we were kids we were to be in when the street lights came on. Our parents knew who we played with. Parents have much greater responsibility in applying those same kinds of parameters to their young people's exposure to social media (i.e. cellphone, tablet, tv, what courses are being taught, what forces are creating gender confusion in their lives, and so on). Parents must be in control of what is or is not good for their children. Are we involved in PTA and paying attention to values being supported in national and local elections? Pray as a family, worship as a family, take time as a family.   

Lighthouse December 26, 2023

Survival

Did you survive? How many presents have already been destroyed, obliterated, set aside. Food, of course is one of those things we hope to see disappear. Realistically, most of us have probably already got enough stuff. We don't have any more shelf space, wall space, or even wardrobe space. I remember when Christmas most likely did mean getting another pair of pants, or shoes, because they were needed. Now, things we need we tend to get when they're needed and don't need additional surpluses. Really though; I hope you had a great Christmas, especially with family time. Time is a gift that does also disappear, but it can be the greatest gift we can give one another. One thing that is truly good, if you want to call it that, about things being destroyed, desiccated, demolished or set aside is it quickly reminds us of how finite things are. It reminds us that things never give lasting happiness. Things can be addictive and make us think we constantly need new, better and name brand stuff. As we immediately look to a new year now we do well not to forget what it means to say Happy New Year. Happy New Year 2024 anno domini, AD, year of the Lord. If we could only be conscious of those few words then we realize how important it is to approach the new year as being intentionally dedicated to the Lord. If we mean that then we are saying: “Lord, every day in this coming year I dedicate to your glory. I desire to use each day and all the things I do have for giving you glory.” “Lord, help me to recognize that the surplus I have, all the stuff I set aside because I don't need it, really belongs to those in greater need. Help me find ways of sharing, knowing that we all benefit.” In Mt. 24:40 we hear our Lord say: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me.” If we dare to say: “Year of the Lord” then we have to recognize the many faces Jesus will be present to us throughout this year, identifying with those in greatest need. I pray that 2024 will be the greatest year ever for you, and it will be if you focus more on the needs of others rather than self. We ask ourselves: “How can I best serve with the time, treasure and talent God has given to me?”

Lighthouse December 19, 2023

What a Gift
I'm sure some will be saying that shortly, and, maybe you already are with so many giving out gifts
already. Some will be excited; some may be disappointed, maybe, that you didn't get that Lombourgini.
Gift. That is an interesting word in the scriptures. Of course, this time of year we all know of the three
magi bringing their gifts. But do you know that almost every reference to gift is a gift being given to God.
There is a reference of 'if you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your
Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Mt. 7:11 the Father is always ready to
give good gifts to you. Hopefully we all know that with Christmas we are celebrating the greatest gift He
could give us. He gave us His son who would freely lay down his life on the cross for our salvation. It
can't get any better than our salvation. Are we really grateful for that gift? And, of course, what does it
lead to? Mt. 7:12 goes on to say “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” In
other words we should not be about “what am I going to get” but “how can I gift others?” that being said,
I hope you realize that beyond the gift of Jesus' own life the greatest gifts are others. Do we see our
parents, our children, our spouse as the greatest gifts in our lives? If we do then we should realize
Christmas is not so much a matter of giving things to represent our love for the other but of our taking
time to be there for the other, in whatever way that might be possible. Don't get a big head now, but do
you realize that you are the greatest gift they want to have, the gift of yourself. When we realize how
precious every human being is, no matter how old or how newly conceived in the womb we can't help but
develop a greater reverence for each person. When we think of that baby in the womb and how much of a
gift it is to us from God we can't help but wonder what talents, what skills, what mission God has sent
along with him/her that no one else can replace. As that gift is unwrapped year by year and through your
encouragement become all he/she is called to be we will marvel even more at how great our God is who
meets all our needs through others. That child then is not only a gift to the parents, even if they were
apprehensive in receiving it, but is destined to be a gift for the whole world. Know that you are a gift, a
blessing for all of us. Now, as a child of God, a gift from God, act like it.

Lighthouse December 5, 2023

HE COMES THE FIRST TIME

Last week we mentioned how Advent means 'he comes'. Although the first week still focuses on His second coming, this season is really about His first coming into history. How does one wrap their mind around it. I mean, almighty God whom we now now as Trinity created all that is through Him 'through whom all things were made.' We know that nothing could exist except by God's own awareness of it. As we think of the billions and billions of galaxies, stars, black holes, planets how could this God choose to create all kinds of life forms on some inconspicuous planet and then along with that create corporal spiritual beings able to relate to Him? And, going further, how could He choose to physically become one of them with all the limitations that would entail? Guess what? Whether we can understand it or not, that's what He did. How about that? Now, He didn't just tell Himself that after some billions of years of getting the ball rolling that there would be a woman and she would allow Him to take on flesh. No. He gave humans free will. That means they have freewill to fit in with His will. That means that if and when there were such a woman worthy enough that she would have the freewill to deny Him. Wow. Guess what He did. After our first parents disavowed their relationship with Him He waited and then spent 2,000 years preparing a certain people for that possibility. Like a long courtship, He entered a relationship with Abraham to whom he promised the land which would become Israel; named after his grandson Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. So his descendants were called Israelites. When Israel split up, the southern part containing Jerusalem was in Judah and the people would then be called 'Jews'. So, in this long relationship with the Jews God sent many prophets who would foretell of a Messiah. That was in response to His original promise to Adam and Eve and Satan that there would be one who would crush Satan's head. As we all know God finally proposes to Mary, a Jew, through the Angel Gabriel, that she could bear His son. Thus God worked with the Jews and their ancestors for those 2000 years to make this happen. What has intrigued me lately is that God also worked through many other peoples to help them become ready to accept this Messiah. For example in Mt. 2 scripture says that of the pagan kings who said: 'We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.' Even the pagans had been looking forward to this Messiah. Even with the Greek pagans of the early centuries God seems to have prepared them through the Sybils as told by Virgil <19BC of a boy who would come as savior. Recently I've been reading a new book which the authors have spent 14 years researching the words of Juan Diego who in Mexico City on Dec. 9, 1531 was on Tepeyec hill and heard birds and saw a field of flowers. He said 'Is it possible I am in the place our ancient ancestors, our grandparents, told about, in the land of flowers, the land of corn ..the Flower World Paradise?' The authors came to discover that not only Juan's culture of the Nahua, the Aztecs and even the Hopi, the Paiute and other Indians of American Southwest had similar stories of the flower fields of a parallel world. Seemingly that is why it was so easy for nine million to accept Juan Diego's words about Jesus and become Christians in just a few years. God spent 2000 years preparing the world for His son; how long did it take Him, working in your life, to help you accept Jesus as the savior who has come?

Lighthouse November 28, 2023

Advent

I’ve had some inquiry about the upcoming season we call Advent. I say season because; just like the calendar year, the fiscal year we have what we call, a liturgical year. A liturgical year is an attempt to commemorate the life of Jesus throughout the year. The principal time is, of course, Easter, the Resurrection, in which Jesus overcame death. Everything else is based around that. We have 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter and then 50 days after Easter leading to Pentecost, the birth of the church. From Easter we jump 9 months to celebrate his birth. Of course, births ought to be prepared for so we have 4 Sundays doing such, not 40 days. So you can see why it peeves me a little to see so many Christmas decorations already going up and jumping the season. We seem to do that with so many things. We celebrate Thanksgiving before Thanksgiving and not wanting to impose on Thanksgiving in the past merchants kindly waited to hit us with what has come to be known as Black Friday; only now, black Friday begins a couple weeks before that. Anyway, Advent. Advent comes from advenio. It is a proclamation of ‘He comes’. Jesus is coming in the flesh; so get ready. And, to finish off the previous year we ended with Christ the King this past Sunday reminding us of another coming, his second coming, when he will come to judge the world; when there won’t be any more days for getting ready. So, how do you truly get ready for Christmas? Just think about it. It’s not about Santa Claus and presents. It’s not about great family times. It’s about the unfathomable reality of Almighty God who created all that is: the galaxies, the world, animals, humans, plants, the seasons, choosing to be conceived in and born of a human being. How does one wrap their mind around that? And then, to think, his whole purpose of coming into the world as a man was to overcome sin and death. Really! Couldn’t God have just chosen to forgive us without such? Hadn’t He really forgiven the Jews many times when they turned away from Him? But this was to overcome the deliberate choice Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, had made to go against Him. Some theologians say that because their sin was against an infinite being that it would take an infinite being to be able to atone for them. On God’s part, to show an infinite love it would take the death of an infinite lover to prove to us His love. ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Who, more than Christ, would do that? Ultimately Christ is the Christmas gift. His father gave Him totally to us. How well do we appreciate it? Let us during this season of Advent prepare for His first coming by identifying with the Jews who spent 2000 years looking for His coming. How about taking time to read some of the Old Testament Prophecies during this season.

Lighthouse November 21, 2023

O happy fault, or necessary sin of Adam

What a strange start for thinking of Thanksgiving. This past Sunday we celebrated an Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service here in Piedmont. We recognize that truly, as God's people, we are called to give thanks. Each of us come up with our long list of things or circumstances. We are grateful for good health, family, the beauty of the season, our jobs, our pets, and the list goes on. For this we should be thankful and celebrate this Thursday. We think of the Pilgrims who were grateful for food that kept them from starving when they arrived on these shores. A thanksgiving that was made possible, by the way, because they were greeted by an English speaking Indian who happened to be Christian. So, yes, let us be thankful for all this. But, how often do we take time to thank God for those things we don't particularly like. When, at Easter we sing 'o happy fault, or necessary sin of Adam' we are giving thanks to God for His son Jesus voluntarily offering himself on the cross for our salvation. We don't like it that he suffered but we are grateful for the results. And so it is with offering thanks for heroic people who give of themselves for the good of all. But, what about our own suffering? We begin our day praying 'I offer my works, joys and sufferings of this day'. Yes, there is redeeming value, or can be, to suffering. Why should I be thankful? First of all, as a Christian we trust everything to God. If we have suffering or circumstances we don't know how to deal with we bring those to Him praying that He might mitigate them. Because we believe God hears our prayer, what happens if it is not resolved in the way we want? As with Jesus, he prayed 'Father take this cup from me. Not my will but your will be done.' Therefore, if God continues to allow something in our life we trust He knows what He is doing. So, if there is some suffering we are enduring which is not being removed we offer it up, and, it is helpful, to offer it up for others. As St. Paul says, 'we continue to bear the completion of the sufferings of Christ in our bodies.' We have the power, the invitation, to be part of His redemptive work. When anyone is suffering in order to attain a particular goal the suffering becomes so much less, whether it be childbirth, winning the Olympics, or getting a paycheck to care for the needs of the family. In all this we trust that God knows what He is doing. To refuse to accept such is to tell Him He doesn't know what He is doing. The same thing then may well apply to other kinds of suffering (i.e. I don't look the way I would like to, whatever that means, or the problem many are facing with gender dysphoria in saying they would rather have been born with a different gender. The failure to accept getting passed over for a promotion or the failure to attract the person I have an attraction to.) The longer it takes you and I come to accept what is, after we have laid our discontent at the Lord's feet, the greater will be our on-going suffering; and, our ability to offer that suffering as a sincere prayer for helping others. I pray then, that all of us can THANK GOD for ALL THINGS. As one priest used to say when I was young: 'if you can't change the circumstances, change your attitude'. “Give thanks in all circumstances” 1 Thes.5:18.  

Lighthouse November 7, 2023
Veterans Day

What a tribute to all who served in the armed forces. While on Memorial Day we remembered all who died in war; this Saturday we pray for all who have or continue to serve, all those who can still make a difference. Ever since 9/11 this day seems like it has a special meaning in that November means 9 so it is also 9/11. We've always heard that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That applies to the protection of all our rights. The right to life from conception on. The right to liberty or the freedom of speech and the right to the pursuit of happiness, or the ability to live out our faith in God as we best see fit. As such it only seems proper that if those inalienable rights are from God that we continue to live out our motto of 'one nation under God.' We all know that those who serve for whatever number of years in the service are not doing so for their own good but for the good of all. For that we thank you, we ask God's blessings on you. We know that those who do so give up a lot of normal family amenities they could be enjoying if they stayed home. For that we thank you. We know that a number of our veterans will pay the price of dying away from home. For that we thank you. When we read from the book of Malachi 1:14ff this past Sunday we were reminded 'a great King am I, says the Lord of hosts and my name will be feared among the nations....have we not one father? Has not the one God created us?' We know that all of you who serve are acutely aware that you go to serve, and serve with, all who have this one father; whether they be Jew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or even atheists. That you are able to bring that belief and attitude back home, we thank you. And, if you happen to be under the influence of some who do not hold these high ideals we pray that you are able to hold strong to the higher ideals the Lord calls you to. It is He who also says this Sunday in Matthew 23:1ff to do as the leaders say but do not follow their examples if they go against the gospel. Do you know of a local person who may be serving some distance away? How about sending them an acknowledgment of appreciation. They are there for you.

Lighthouse October 31, 2023

SHEMA

This Sunday we heard from Matthew 22:34 where Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment. In answering he said “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' In doing so he was invoking the Shema. All Jews on entering and leaving their house touch the mezuzah, a little plaque reminding them of this commandment and they say 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever” and then proclaim the passage above. I wonder, during this time of renewed anti-Semitism, if it might not be a good idea for all of us Christians to embrace this prayer. Certainly there is nothing there that a Christian would have a problem with. In touching this plaque and proclaiming this scripture one is aware that in going out into the world their actions are to proclaim this one God. Then, in going back into the home, they are proclaiming that this one God gives them joy and peace in their home. Traditionally, Catholics are encouraged to have a holy water font in their doorway for much the same reason. They touch the holy water reminding themselves that they have been baptized in Christ and then touch their head saying 'In the name of the Father', their heart saying 'and of the son', and their shoulders saying 'and of the Holy Spirit'. They proclaim this one God we call Trinity and are reminded that it is God who has called them and gives them strength to live the Gospel in the world. So, what does that involve? In the gospel passage quoted above Jesus went on to say that the rest of the command was 'to love your neighbor as yourself.' One cannot truly love God yet ignore this second part. How do we love ourselves? First of all by knowing we are made in God's image and by seeking salvation and accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior to obtain that. But then we are called to make sure we do nothing that goes against God's will. So, to love our neighbor is to first of all want salvation for them. Then, going beyond that, to want, and work for, whatever is for their good. As Christians, our Jewish roots go back 4,000 years. As such, let us not be afraid to embrace our unity with them. Let us fulfill Jesus', a Jew, proclamation of the great command to 'love the Lord your God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Let us pray with our Jewish brothers, and for them. In union with them let us, every time we go in or out of the house proclaim 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.. you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'

Lighthouse October 24, 2023

Give to Caesar

I know it isn't tax season, and maybe that's a good time to reflect on our participation in civil society. This past Sunday we reflected on Mt. 22:21 “is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” We are all familiar with how well Jesus handled this question which was meant to trap him. After all, the Pharisees enlisted the help of some Herodians to corner Jesus. Remember, Herodians were considered traitors as they cooperated with Herod. Whichever way Jesus answers he's had it. If he says 'no' the Herodians will report him. If he says 'yes' the Jews will condemn him for cooperating with the state. So Jesus simply says 'render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.' After all, they had shown him a coin they were carrying with Caesar's image on it. That showed the hypocrisy of what they were trying to do. So, the basic question is 'what is God's'? everything. We were called to be stewards and care for all things, including our own bodies, as He would want, including tithing some back to Him. What's left for the state then? Jesus himself paid the tax. Scripture itself tells us that if we are drafted to go one mile, go two. It tells us to pray for the rulers. And, if we are slaves, to work well for the master. In other words, if we live in an autocratic society, if we are really like slaves then we ought to do our job well. If we live in a free democratic society then we are called to see ourselves as part of a family. We recognize that we receive benefits from the state by the infrastructure which we get to enjoy and which we could not create on our own. Take for example purified water, electric, sewer and highways, and many forms of communication, protection. It takes some sort of structure and then some sort of governing body to help make sure these social amenities are maintained. In a free society we may well see it as a family, and, as such, everyone in the family has to do their part. If we fall into the mode of just being recipients of all these things with just a right to criticize when things don't go the way I want then we fail at the most basic level of being a civil human being. With privileges, in any aspect of our lives, comes responsibilities. Do we really seek to be informed and be an active agent in helping things work for the common good? Some level of participation, like taxation, will simply become a necessary given. Some would call it a necessary evil. Be that as it may, it is necessary and so Jesus willingly paid a tax. Some levels of participation are totally voluntary, such as participating on a school board, or maybe a more responsible position in our civil structure. If God has given us those kinds of gifts, then hopefully we are willing to use them always remembering to use them for the common good, because we are one family. Can I pay taxes to Caesar? Certainly. Let us all render to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's.  

Lighthouse October 10, 2023

This week we hear from Matthew 21 that Jesus will take His vineyard from the scribes and pharisees and give it to a people who will produce its fruits. Who is that? That is you and I and all who have accepted Jesus. It's an interesting parable in that Jesus talks about the Father doing everything in terms of preparing the vineyard, clearing the ground, fertilizing it, building a watchtower and even having a wine press ready for the crop. The only thing the tenants had to do was to watch it grow and harvest on time. It even had a hedge to keep unwanted visitors out. He is accusing the scribes and Pharisees of the many times the Jews had fallen into sin and idolatry; how many times God allowed foreigners to invade their land because they didn't trust His word; how many times they killed the prophets for reminding them of His word; until, as He predicts here, they kill the son himself. That all sounds well and good to us as we think of ourselves comfortably belonging to His kingdom, His vineyard. But, when He says He will turn His vineyard to others what does that mean for us? What is it Jesus is always looking for in a harvest? Others, others who will spend eternity with Him. He himself said: 'The harvest is ready but the laborers are few.' And, remember a couple weeks ago when we heard of people being hired at different times of day and yet receiving the same wage. Why would those hired last be as valuable as those hired first? Because of the inestimable value of each soul. To have worked long enough to bring one soul into the kingdom has unbelievable value. We see the same reason behind Jesus describing himself as the good Shepard who leaves the 99 to find the one. That one is important. What does that tell us about our involvement in the kingdom, the vineyard, the harvest? It tells us we do well to share the faith with others. How many have you brought to Jesus? Have you brought others to Jesus who are now doing the same as well? Can you imagine how many there are who will be there to thank you when we come to the eternal kingdom? How do we do that? Be like Nathan and say: 'come and see.' Be ready to tell the story of how the Father has called a people to Himself time and time again. Tell the story of how He sent His only son who, when He was killed by them said 'When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself.' Tell the story of His extreme forgiveness when He begged the Father to 'Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.' God has called us to 'bear fruit'. Will you do so or will you just be one more who wants the kingdom without the labor; or, God forbid, one more who seeks to silence the messenger?  

Lighthouse September 12, 2023

Romans 13:8-30 Love is the fulfillment of the Law

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

I don't know what scripture you heard this past Sunday but this is the one used throughout the Catholic world and many other denominations. It's so beautiful and yet, so uncomfortable. We all like to hear those words 'love, love, love'. And, we think of St. Augustine who said 'love, and do what you will'. Our earthly nature may immediately equate love with licentiousness, do what I feel like. But that would be a far cry from love. Love is, first of all, not a feeling. It does have objective norms for being evaluated. That is why no one has any problem with the second, third, and forth commandment Paul mentions. We all know, even in our constitution, that to take the life of another is never love. It is a great denial of what is most essential to the other. No one has a problem with seeing the evil in stealing. We have a right to private property. But, when someone mentions something against the sixth command, which by the way comes from the word 'sextus' dealing with sex then the whole world seems to scream for freedom to do as one wills. Why do you think Paul mentions it first? This is why Jesus himself references us back to what the author of life established as the natural law, one man, one woman, for life. It was by the creation of marriage that God said 'let us make man in our image', a community of persons. When someone asks what does one plus one equal we are prone to answer 'two'. But if you ask what one cloud merged with one cloud equals you still have one cloud. So it is with marriage 'the two shall become one.' It was only natural that Satan would seek to destroy this witness of God's unity. When Adam and Eve gave into temptation not only was their relationship with God damaged but in putting on clothes they showed their own inability to totally trust one another. This is what Jesus made possible to restore. A man and woman can totally give themselves to one another and become one. Any other use of the sexual power outside of that is to give into Satan's plan that people only use one another. I saw a book at our rummage the other day on what to do after a child is born in caring for it and oneself. It states 'when one is ready for recreational sex'. That statement just screamed at me, as if sex is more about seeking pleasure than the person. Even within marriage one can succumb to seeing the other as an object. If a couple totally gives themselves to one another they can have the greatest sexual joy God designed. Any other use of one's sexual power, including pornography, is to destroy God's original design and thus be adultery. That's where we get the word 'adulterate' from. It is to corrupt the original design of the author. Let us work to rebuild marriage, the pillar of society, the witness of real love; let us get rid of all of Satan's temptations that go against it in our own lives.

Lighthouse September 5, 2023

Labor Day; a day to labor or refrain?

My dad used to have an excuse for working on almost any occasion; and Labor Day didn't miss the point. Besides, it was usually cotton-picking season . What is our attitude towards work, labor? Some think of it in a very negative way because of such words as 'labor camps'. What does scripture have to say about it? When we read Genesis we hear the words 'garden'. Adam and Eve were in a garden and given dominion over all animals. That of itself indicates there must be some tilling of the garden. But it was a sharing in God's own very creative process. When they sinned it was only then that they were told it would exact some uncomfortableness to bring about the basics in food and housing that they would desire. Even then it was not bad as humans have always been able to take delight in something they have grown or designed. Then, when we look at the New Testament we hear St. Paul say 'let him who does not work, not eat” 2 Thes. 3:10. I like what Pope Francis said in a recent book. He said “Labor is not the exclusive privilege of the employed or the employers but a right and duty for all men and women.' He goes on to say that everyone needs to earn a dignified living through their labor, to support their families and develop themselves, but to also enrich their surroundings and communities. That everyone should see it as a way of taking part in society and contribute to the common good. He says that prioritizing access to work must become a core goal of national public policies. It is interesting that he talked about the very words we use: 'company' means sharing bread together; 'corporation' means integration into the body; common good comes from the Latin cum-munus is to serve together. We are not a communistic society expecting the government to take and disperse but rather a society based primarily on Judaeo-Christian values which esteems the free ability to give to others as we deem the need exists and our ability to give. As such we are called to recognize the inherent value of each person made in the image and likeness of God and to hear the words of Jesus telling us that what we do to the least we do to Him. With that in mind and with the belief that everyone really does want to work the pope encourages us to see the true value to the common good of having parents at home caring for their children or even the value of volunteers who seek to serve that common good in some way. As such, we do well to seek ways to make it beneficial to have stay at home care-givers. We do well then to make all labor of sufficient value to where the individual can have great self-esteem in providing their own food, housing and health care. Is not the way forward precisely in helping all to achieve that. It's not about 'look at what I'm doing for you' but rather 'look at all we can achieve as a caring family.'  

Lighthouse August 29, 2023

Do not feed what is holy to the dogs
This past Sunday we had one of the most challenging readings, that is in understanding, as any we might
ever address. In Mt. 15:21 we hear Jesus encounter a Canaanite woman in the area of Tyre and Sidon.
She asks that he heal her daughter and Jesus responded 'It is not right to take the food of children and
throw it to the dogs.' To which she responds 'Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table.' And
Jesus responds 'O woman, great is your faith!' Very confusing in many ways. The Canaanites were eternal
enemies of the Jews. This is the first time scripture records Jesus going outside of the Holy Land and here
he uses a derogatory term while in foreign territory. Remember, it was Jesus who told the story about the
rich man being condemned because he wouldn't even give the scraps given to the dogs to the poor man,
Lazarus. This scripture is a reminder of why it is very important to know who the scriptures are being
addressed to. Over and over Jesus is teaching the apostles, as well as the Scribes and Pharisees that they
must have faith in him. As such he will time and again indicate how the apostles themselves had little
faith; as he did to Peter when he rescued him from drowning and said 'O you of little faith.' Over and over
he begins indicating that he has come for all people 'and when I am lifted up I will draw all to myself.' To
do this he made examples of others who were not among the elite believers. He touched great sinners and
tax collectors. He healed the lepers. Then he even healed the centurion's servant and said about him in Mt.
8:10 “ When Jesus heard him he marveled, and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I say to you, not
even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.' Here he has expanded his outreach beyond the
Jews and now with the Phoenician woman he demonstrates that he, God, does indeed exist and operate
outside of the Holy Land. Remember, many cultures, including Jews limited their god to certain territory.
As he had said earlier to the woman at the well 'The days are coming when true worshipers will worship
God everywhere' and he would tell the apostles to go out into the whole world proclaiming the Gospel.
Few of us reading this Gospel are of Jewish origin and so we should take delight that we have been
included in the Father's rest. Jesus has made unequivocal the fact that the kingdom is open to all people,
everywhere. How well we would do to also live with that awareness when we look at others. We are all
called to belong at the same table.

Lighthouse August 2, 2023

Grandparents Day. Okay, I know it is not until the Sunday after Labor Day here in the US but for some of us it is celebrated internationally with the Feast of St. Joachim and Ann, the supposed grandparents of Jesus. It dawned on me that by the time the 10th of September comes we have already used up our summer; we've gotten back to a school schedule; we get in one last hurrah for summer with Labor Day and then we don't want to focus on anything else. I thought it might be good to focus on the time between these two grandparent days and see if we can't pay them a little more attention. First of all, who are Joachim and Ann? We really don't know Jesus' grandparents name on Mary's side, which is the only biological side Jesus has. Someone in the third century figured they ought to have a name because, after all, Jesus came in the flesh. He was born a human being with a real body like ours; he had real parents and grandparents and so on. So it only seemed right to honor them because, after all, grandparents are very important. You know in scripture 'honor your father and mother' is the only commandment which has a promise,'that you may live a long life in the land.' Of course I love Lev 19:32 'You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man.' Then again, in terms of thinking of grandparents Proverbs 17 says 'Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.' With that we see how reciprocal the relationship is. Unfortunately we live in a time where because of smaller families and the mobility of our society many grandparents do not have the joy of frequent contact with their grandchildren. It seems then that this time between the two grandparent days would be a great time for us to be intentional in making sure vacations don't consume all our free time and that we make way for the other generation. How can you include them in your summer plans yet? I know as I look back I realize how extremely fortunate I was. Not only did I get to know all 4 of my grandparents I got to see them on a regular basis. Each one of them was truly an inspiration in my life, not necessarily in what they had to say about God but in how they lived their lives in relationship with God. Hopefully you have had much that same kind of experience and realize how important it is to help make it happen for your own children. We live in a time when Satan is certainly attacking the family, and its values. As such we have to be more intentional in not only how we counteract that but in how we give greater witness to others who perhaps have not been so blessed.  

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