Resisting Temptation

Driven into the Wilderness

Lenten Season Yr. B

First Sunday of Lent

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:12-15 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

I want to begin this Sunday’s reflection with a thought, ‘What would it have been like to be tempted by Satan as Jesus was?’  This goes without saying because we are tempted by Satan every day, but not in the same way.  I saw that because Jesus was being tempted in a very particular way, in fact, His temptation was centered on His life as a human being and on His divinity all in one go.  Satan sought to over through our Lord right out of the gate! Here is an analogy I used to tell my students in elementary school. We as human beings are like a raw metal that is filled with impurities. God seeks through our lives and experience to drive those impurities out through a series of lessons that burn away those impurities only to give us cooling down periods which serves to toughen us up. From the purification fires to the cooling down faith forming waters over and over we follow this cycle all the days of our life.

However, Jesus was born without sin, He was already pure. So why did He need to be tested by Satan? (Let me know your thoughts on Facebook)

Possible Answer: Satan saw an opening and tried to take advantage of it. Because Jesus was both man and God there were two sides of the same coin, on weaker than the other. Guess which one was weaker – the human side right? Satan, therefore, sought to tempt Jesus’s humanity and appeal to his human desires. It is here where Jesus was most vulnerable as forty -days lingered on. Think of the world today if Satan had gotten Jesus through His mortal hunger to make the stones before him into loaves of bread? What would this world be like if Jesus allowed His humanity to stumble as we often do? But Jesus instead chooses to answer Satan with a quote from Deuteronomy, 8:3;

4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Reflection Question: ‘What example does this set for our lives today?’

The temptations of Christ was intended to test every facet of what would become His ministry all the way to His final passion.  Jesus would overcome Satan on both sides of that coin. Satan most certainly knew that Jesus in whatever form He chose was stronger and could destroy his hold on humanity, Satan knew that Jesus was that one High Preist that would intercede on man’s behalf gaining the favor of God as it relates to our sins. The very sin’s that condemned humanity from the very first day in the Garden. Satan’s temporary victory would be shattered for all time! Satan finally knew that Jesus through the very act of humbling Himself in becoming human would be able to relate to humanity, feeling every sorted feeling, every physical pain, every tempting thought to rebel against God. Jesus being driven into the desert was to clear His doubts about His final three years on earth, His desire to live over the plan of salvation; so Satan tempted Him. Each day Jesus walked the earth as a man was another day closer humanity could relate to God in a new and exciting way. All of which would topple Satans stranglehold on all of mankind for eternity. Jesus’ s very public announcement that kickstarted His ministry after His baptism was one that most certainly drove Satan to defend all that he had done in his rage against God, the lion looking pounced upon Jesus and our Lord took the brunt of His rath for all of us through those forty days of His divine temptation.

Let Us Pray

Let all Creatures Praise the Lord

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

Canticle – Daniel 3:57-88, 56

And from the throne came a voice saying,

‘Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.’ Revelations 19:5 (NRSVA)

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

57 ‘Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
58 Bless the Lord, you heavens;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
59 Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
60 Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heavens;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
61 Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
62 Bless the Lord, sun, and moon;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
63 Bless the Lord, stars of heaven;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

64 ‘Bless the Lord, all rain, and dew;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
65 Bless the Lord, all you winds;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
66 Bless the Lord, fire, and heat;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
67 Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
68 Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
69 Bless the Lord, ice, and cold;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
70 Bless the Lord, frosts, and snows;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
71 Bless the Lord, nights and days;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
72 Bless the Lord, light, and darkness;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
73 Bless the Lord, lightning and clouds;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

74 ‘Let the earth bless the Lord;
    let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
75 Bless the Lord, mountains, and hills;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
76 Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
77 Bless the Lord, you springs;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
78 Bless the Lord, seas, and rivers;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
79 Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
80 Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
81 Bless the Lord, all wild animals, and cattle;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

82 ‘Bless the Lord, all people on earth;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
83 Bless the Lord, O Israel;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
84 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
85 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
86 Bless the Lord, spirits, and souls of the righteous;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
87 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

88 ‘Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. For he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire, he has delivered us.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

Let us bless and exalt Him above all forever. Blessed are you, Lord, in the firmament of Heaven. Praiseworthy and glorious and exalted above all forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

May the Lord bless you, protect you from all evil and bring you to everlasting life.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for us.Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’

Amen, Alleluia

Now go spread the word!

Reaffirming Our Mission

To Always Image Christ in Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul.

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“Convert and Believe in the Gospel”

From the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time to Ash Wednesday 2018

Lenten Season 

ASH WEDNESDAY

Yet even now, says the Lordreturn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. – Joel 2:2-3 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

Dear brothers and sisters, I truly hope you all are enjoying my new blog postings and the cleaner look and feel of the overall website as we move forward this year in the grand journey we are all on.  Again, I welcome all of you back and as many of you may already know the main goal of Listening Faithfully is to impact each of you in a positive way.  Guiding you, gently motivating you in the best ways to emulate God the Father while allowing in the Holy Spirit.  Mentorship is about teaching specific lessons, leading through clear and purposeful activities, and sometimes being the first to swallow their pride and be the example no one else could be. Truly, I say to you I hope and pray you find the stories of my ou\wn experiences inspiring and uplifting and through this ministry, every corner of your hearts will be filled with the agape love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope this happens in a similar way as described in this past weekends message, for we were all asked to believe and have faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  So, I say to all of you we must pray and show grace to each other so that we ourselves may be shown God’s grace, forgiveness, and undeserved love; granting to us the opportunity to change our hearts and turn our faces towards God. 

Human Struggles Overcome with God’s Help!

45 The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. – Leviticus 13:45-46 (NRSVA)

I have been through a lot this year, seen unexpected changes that quite honestly I would have never imagined. Some of those changes were positive, others scary, and still there are some lingering which poses a huge challenge in both my professional and personal life. I have questioned my friend’s trust, loyalty, love, etc. Some of them have questioned my resolve, direction, and sincerity. I know that sometimes that could lead us to frustration, anger, hate, resentment, and these sorts of feelings can be harmful to our trust relationship with others and with God.  In turn, these feelings if left unchecked can motivate us to make a truly sad and regrettable decision; that of blaming and even eventually walking away from God.  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I tell you that by listening intently to God’s message this past weekend in church my heart was moved in such way I could not ignore what God was really saying to me through the readings in Leviticus 13:1-3, 44-46 and in the Gospel of Mark 1:40-45. So, like Jesus cleansed the lepers, God’s word cleansed my heart. I pray that after reading my reflection today you all will also find and receive this glorious feeling of hope, love, joy, and experience the grace of God cleansing your heart as well.

Prepare Your Eternal Soul

40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ – Mark 1:40-41 (NRSVA)

As you know Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, February 14, 2018. We are asked to pray, fast, and participate in almsgiving. The Gospel also commands us all to come back to the Lord our God with clean hearts, so that we may have the opportunity to be shown His mercy.  The connection to last Sunday’s Mass is found in the gospel where we hear about the leper going to Jesus begging him to heal him. The leaper shows humility because of how he speaks to Jesus, saying;

 “If you wish, you can make me clean”.

The leper is putting every ounce of his trust in Jesus as he so humbly asks for help all within a contrite heart.  This is a good example of how to approach our Lord, putting aside our egos and pride.  Sadly, there still are those of us who are filled with anger, jealousy, ambitiousness, hate and have perfected the art of lying.  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, we should fall upon our faces before the Lord, filled with remorse for our sins which are punishable by death. We need to deeply reflect on our actions and take responsibility for what we have done wrong.  In that way we can truly be sincere when we pray for mercy as we present all our trespasses to the Lord, hoping He forgives us, cleansing our souls, washing us clean, and making us new. 

Morality Lessons Found in Modern Day Disease

13 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a leprous disease on the skin of his body, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. – Leviticus 13:1-2  (NRSVA)

Leprosy in our day is not a significant matter as an illness. But, rather the importance of the illness itself is found within the symbology which remains just as meaningful for those who lived during Jesus’s time as it does for us to this very day. For there are similar characteristics of suffering and marginalization with other more deadly diseases we face today. HIV comes to mind, homosexuality, (though it is not a disease), people who identify themselves in that sexual orientation are treated as if they are unclean, drug addiction, the scourge of mental health issues…and again compare many other similar issues of the day back then to now, which force other social issues to be brought to the forefront. It is not fear but love which is the positive force in history, for it is love which invites us to reject no one, and it is love that makes us deeply believe and trust in God; for he knocks at the doors of our hearts asking us to let Him in. Though we are sinners, murders, vile creatures in comparison to His grace, God sees the good in all of us, for it is He who helps us see past the social issues and reach out to our fellow man, lift up our brothers and sister who are being marginalized; and it is God who endlessly offers His divine forgiveness to this undeserving world.  Indeed,  there is a huge morality tell being told in Sunday’s Gospel that still has deep farreaching significance for all who live in this, the so-called modern world. 

The Love That Conquerors

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NRSVA)

Even though someone has betrayed me, or not kept his or her promises, or was not the person I thought he or she was, I do not hate them. No! I do not allow my self to hate! Yes… deep inside me, there is a war raging, one that is fighting to keep me from loving those who do not love me.  Despite this struggle, I still find room in my soul to discover love in my heart for those people,  because I do not want to saturate my heart with hate!  I know that people need love in their hearts and require compassion, understanding, and forgiveness just as I crave those same things.  For who am I to withhold anything from my enemies, though they may do so against me?  I strive to make full my heart with the love and compassion of the Lord, as I struggle daily to emulate Him. For I know there is that love which conquerors hate, despair, rage, jealousy, and the darkest of evil acts.  In fact, no one said it would be easy, no one promised me a rose garden, rather I was told about all the thorns I would encounter. I find in my own life it’s better to rise above the narrow-mindedness of others and strive to be that shining star everyone sees from afar.  This Wednesday is Lent and Valentine’s Day, therefore brothers and sisters, spread the Good News and the Love of Jesus Christ.

Reflect

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. – 2 Timothy 2:7 (NRSVA)

  1. When have I felt rejected?
  2. Have I rejected others?  
  3. When have I justified the rejection of others because of my own errors or conditions?
  4. When have I been tempted to judge and reject others?
  5. When have I caught myself questioning the loyalties of those I call family or friends?

The Call to Contribute

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. – Romans 12:13 (NRSVA)

Please share, like, and comment on this post. Let everyone you know hear about the good news of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and make a commitment to renewing your lives with Him just as I have made the commitment to renew my love for all of you expressed through Listening Faithfully blog renewed look and feel. I hope the reflections to come will motivate you to renew your mind, heart, body, and soul. I pray that each of you joins me on this journey of mutual learning as we grow together as a community of believers and followers of God. I pray that you all allow the Lord in so that He may remodel your hearts, convert your spirit and make you all ready to run that race through the next chapter of our lives. Keep reading and reflecting on the gospel my dearest brothers and sisters, and let’s be like the leper and together ask God to help us and heal us from all of our sins that is preventing us from leading healthy and happy lives.  Reach out for His strength to find His agape love and allow it to well-up within you until your cups runneth over! Have a wonderful Ash Wednesday and Valentines! 

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for us.Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’

Amen, Alleluia

Now go spread the word!

Reaffirming Our Mission

To Always Image Christ in Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul.

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“Let’s grow together as children of God”

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Listening Faithfully – Changes!

February 10, 2018

23 Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Mark 9:23 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

I, Brian K. Stark, wanted to reach out to all my readers here on Listening Faithfully and welcome you back to another year of inspired postings about God and His divine promises which He has faithfully kept from the beginning of time to this very moment! Like Jesus said, “All things are possible to those who believe.” Therefore I believe in all of you my faithful readers and followers that we can continue growing in this new year despite all of our challenges we face!

Concerning the Changes

As you all can see this website looks different, and this evolution will continue during the course of this year. Some of the changes you will experience are in the shorter format of the blog postings, the addition of an eStore, the ability to help support our efforts to evangelize, and in the new, “Follow Me!”, button at the bottom right-hand corner of every page. Other exciting innovations soon in coming is the recorded as well as written devotionals found on the Teacher Devotional Page that include deep insights and funny stories about my life and experiences. As many of you know I began Listening Faithfully back in 2009, and without the inspiring interactions with all my readers and followers, these postings could have never been able to reach a global audience. However, as a teacher, I know true growth is found in the constant practice and dedication to self-reflection, constantly diving deeper into one’s own talents always listening to others more experienced, opening your mind to other peoples’ ideas whether you personally agree with them or not; there is always something to be learned. Ignorance begins with turning away and refusing to see other peoples ideas, and that is a deeply personal decision on the part of the person who has chosen to put that wall up!  I would like to believe that by listening to all of you I have made the changes that everyone can enjoy and take part in.  I look forward to keeping everyone up-to-date with the ongoing changes and look for all your comments and support as we continue our journey together in developing our love and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for us.Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’

Amen,

Now go spread the word!

Reaffirming Our Mission

To Always Image Christ in Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul.

Support Listening Faithfully

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Personal Info

Donation Total: $1.00

“Let’s grow together as children of God”

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Listening Faithfully Blog written by Brian K. Stark © 2009-2018

The Year of Grace

Standing Against False Teachings; Standing with God Through Grace!

9 “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them.” ~ Hebrews 13:9, (NRSVACE)

As a private school teacher, I come across a lot of people who are interested in putting all kinds of rules and regulations on what you should or should not do with the children. Each day is like dogging a bullet. If someone thinks you’re not obeying they call the authorities. How then I ask can we be true to our profession, true to our God, true to ourselves if we are forced to observe things which only serve to complicate the everyday experience? To truly teach others we ourselves must be true in that teaching, and in Hebrews, many people were found to not be true and instead lived lives bound by false doctrine. Grace is found through finding the strength to stand up and do what you know is right and many times that goes against the world which is made up of endless regulations that are designed to keep us bound up, afraid, isolated, and scared of being found false. Grace is found in the teaching which is not bound but free and enlightening meeting everyone’s needs.

The words that should come from our mouths every day should echo this sentiment, “May you grow in the faith with a heart that takes seriously the only true thing which is the grace God so freely gives to us… May God’s grace rest upon you.”  Let us keep the devotion called grace, make our lives an example of God’s grace, and through this teaching be strengthened as we help others also stand up and be strong. Together we are stronger, like many strings woven into a rope, and by the same token apart we are weak and easy to fall too the regulations of the world which is worthless in the end. Show grace in everything you do for all others and grace shall be shown to you. Make this year one to remember through grace allowing your heart to be filled and constantly blessed by God. Pray daily to God, give him your worries and your praise!

Amen,

I hope all of you have been positively moved and I look forward to all your comments and don’t forget to visit the eStore! Leave a message below, vote, and become a follower of Listening Faithfully Blog!

Now go spread the word!

 

Days of Triumph

9 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” ~ Zachariah 9:9

Pietro_di_Giovanni_d'Ambrogio._Entry_into_Jerusalem._1435-40._Pinacoteca_Stuard,_Parma

When I think of Jesus Christ as King it sets a warm loving fire to my imagination for God’s mercy is endless and that is something of a wonder in my heart, mind, and soul. In that I wonder what life for Jesus was really like? I often ask myself the question, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to travel back into time to have seen Jesus, to have witnessed His birth, Baptismal, His anointment by Mary, His Ministry… especially when He picked the twelve disciples, His temptations by Satan.’ The moments that matter most in most Christian’s hearts is celebrated with as much religious ferber now as it was then, and that is Holy Week; the seven days preceding his crucifixion and resurrection. I feel closest to God in this time frame as do most Christians because it is here we begin to see Jesus rule over His people, sacrifice everything for His people, and ultimately demonstrate God’s perfect love for His people, all of His people which in this context is everyone alive then to now and that will ever live in sin; for His love saved all of us with His blood. We celebrate Jesus’s arrive into Jerusalem as a victory, a triumph, and His ride into the Holy City marks the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

Many scholars argue about the meaning of the colt, donkey, or foal. They try and find purpose behind the acts of Christ by the connections they can make to the gospel. But it is not what Jesus rode or whether or not it was really palm branches that was used to herald His arrival, but the fact our King came in the first place and that He loved us so much that He was willing to enter into the city that He knew was ultimately going to judge then put Him to death for crimes He did not commit. In this way we can begin to see life as Jesus saw it, experience His last week on earth as a mortal man, the Son of God.

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” ~ Matthew 21:10-11

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To have seen Jesus riding into Jerusalem first hand must have been something, or at least for those who where in the know of what was happening. The fact is most people during this period of time were clueless to the real event that was going on because they where blinded by what they thought was happening. To explain this further I have to add that in life we all see events one way when they are happening to us, then see them completely different many years later. But rarely do we ever see the underpinning facts of the event which caused it to happen in the first place in the moment, and if we could see the “WHY” that is driving the event we could have the chance, (the choice), to do something completely different. Again, few people in this period of time understood what was really happening as they could plainly see the “WHY” of Jesus, His mission and ministry, they saw first hand within the moment His ultimate goal and stood by Him until His arrest. Jesus on several occasions revealed this secret to His disciples, and all but one rebuked the idea and questioned the “Why” of His death. They say it was love they felt for Him that made them not want to see Him killed. But Jesus saw this in a completely different way. Judas Iscariot understood it and put the plan into action, as he was the only one strong enough to do so.

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:33

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To write this in this fashion is controversial to say the least, but what drives me to this conclusion is found in the many different texts that had been buried, forgotten, that in their own time was outlawed and destroyed. For in the traditional Bible we have but a sliver of the true history of the events we celebrate. Therefore, we see with clouded eyes, we believe in traditions that come from completely different origins, and we collectively call it Christianity. In part I think that is what drives the truth seekers within the various faiths and sciences to conduct such magnificent research to find the truth in our Biblical history. This journey of seeking, documenting, and exploring is one that even the Catholic Church is involved in today. It is not wrong to try and peace together the truth of Christ, but it is wrong to celebrate and declare that we know things that in reality we truly do not know. In faith we believe that Jesus is the messiah, the King of Heaven and of Earth, but until we find factual evidence will truly know. In this we all are like Thomas who needed to put his finger in the side of Christ, touch his hands and see the wounds. Thomas is every man living today and it is this need to see before we believe that makes our faith stronger and more relevant. I say to you all never ask ‘Who is this?” but rather, ‘I know him who came and saved me.’ For truly God did send His son, and His blood needs no proof, His love needs not the “Thomas Factor” nor does His authority over all of His children need to be proven. It is good to know the facts, but it is better to celebrate the man, savior, son of God who came. Seek first the Kingdom of God that is rooted deep into your hearts, and reserve your questions until you meet Him face to face.

Amen

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Letting Go and Letting God Happen!

15  “”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” ~ Colossians 3:15

Scripture reads with one single solitary goal that is expressed using words like “LET”, the peace of Christ rule your hearts ~Colossians 3:15…. “LET” the message of Christ dwell among you richly, ~Colossians 3:16…. “LET” go of your concerns! Psalms 46:10…. In these three examples the word “LET” is a plea to your heart, mind, and soul. The word “LET” is the giving of free will and is the evidence we crave that God truly loves us for in this He is allowing you to choose to either believe He can help you, solve your problems, hold your hand, and to lift you up or not. It is one word that rings clear and dispels the devils lies about God in that He is giving you His chosen people the right to make up your own minds rather than to control us like robots. God wants all His children to be whole, to love wholly, to be free, to be with Him because they want to be. Some think they can manipulate their way into Heaven by controlling everyone around them. They create chaos in the world, in others they claim to love. Some say one thing and do another and thus are hypocrites. Still more people walk away from God because of guilt that has been burned deep into their hearts by so-called loved ones. Even more people walk away from God in disbelief as they no longer feel God working in their life. In every one of these examples the key element is found within the false idea that we need to be in control all the time. Many times people do this or think this because they are trying not be hurt because they were hurt badly by someone they trusted in their life. To most the very fact that God loves them with perfect, forgiving, merciful love is so scary and so out of this world because of their sins they can’t bring themselves to let go and to let God in! We humans play the blame game with each other. This is evident in the amount of hate there is in the world. This is evident with how we treat our fellow-man. This then causes unrest and war, and on a micro level it destroys families and separates life long friends. So what does it mean to “LET” God in, “LET” the message of God in, “LET” the peace of Christ in? Because we are His children, His chosen people, and because we are granted free will, we are given His body and we become one in Christ. God thus lives within each one of us, and as Jesus instructed our body is His temple.

16 “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

In many ways the human soul is sanctified and is washed clean by the merciful hand of God. We can experience the entirety of God’s love by doing the simplest thing which is in our reality one of the hardest things we could ever do; that being let God in and let God love us, let God control our heart, mind, and soul, and let Him set us free of the earthly burdens we are weighed down with. It comes down to a shift in thinking, a shift in our core belief and perception of who we are and who God wants us to be. In that pursuit we are prohibited from sinning in such ways as passing judgement on others, acting outside of our moral teachings, and thinking negative or manipulating the situations we find ourselves in for our own personal gain. If held as a sacred oath between the believer and God love will flow freely, love will transform our actions, love will fill up our hearts and our life will become enriched beyond our wildest imaginations. This perfect love will burn deep into our heart and let the hidden world be seen as if reborn into a new one. What was holding you back will be leveled, what was giving you grief will be removed, and what was troubling your mind will be taken away within your growing transformation from a carnal sinful person to a true child of God.

6 “That the communication of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philemon 1:6

So it is to you my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, let it be your words more so than anything else which gives testimony to your core belief in God, let it be your mouth which is the horn that brings people to God, let His words fill your heart, mind, and soul always and spread His message. LET GO AND LET GOD LIVE IN YOUR LIFE, IN YOUR HEART, FOR YOU ARE HIS DIVINE TEMPLE!

 Amen

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THE PILGRIM SHEPARD

A very honored friend and Catholic Priest; Father Thomas Welbers is going on another Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Below is the general announcement that he published on his blog; The Pilgrim Shepard. To sign up for this journey with Fr. Welbers please click on the link: SIGN ME UP! 

Meet Fr. Tom!

It Is Accomplished!

8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ~ 1 John 4:8

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From the start to the end of the Holy Bible, example after example, story after story, we read about a God who loves His creations so much that he allowed His only Son to become human, to live and die and to spread His divine word. Every story was filled with imperfect people who all sinned greatly and all of whom God loved. We read about the dysfunctional psyche of people who prayed and then committed horrible acts against their brothers and all of whom God loved. We take great care to make villains of those we do not understand and in this we close off the possibility to think that perhaps even those we do not like God stills loves. The Holy Bible is filled with emotion the strongest of which is love. I find it nearly impossible to tell the stories of the Bible without finding Gods divine love mixed in some where, even in those moments man has felt Gods wrath. Therefore, in 1 John 4:8 we are told who God is, and if you know Him you will know love because God is love.  If you take away anything about the message of God you have to be left with the one single fact staring you in the face, that if you have ever been loved, felt loved, been in love, or been surround with love then odds are you have felt God moving mountains in your life. I write this with all sincerity that in all the troubles I have gotten myself into and all the problems that found me without my help God has never let me down and I have always been surrounded by loving people be them family or friends, and in all this drama I can honestly say I was also loved. Because of this I am aware of God moving the mountains in my life and within that knowledge I know God also loves me as much as He loves His only son Jesus, King David, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and all the other people who lived before me and will live after me. God fulfills His devotional cup of love to every single human being that has ever lived on a daily bases. God’s love for us is “accomplished” every night, every morning, for every day of your life!

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New Year Challenge: Write down every time you have ever felt loved and some obstacle has been moved for you.

 Amen

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The Time of Waiting!

Purpose of the Season

14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” ~ Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

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The traditional view of our modern – Western Christmas – is one that devolved over time from a pagan tradition to a more religious Christian tradition then finally into the economically driven holiday we have now.  In others words, what we celebrate is less about Jesus and the anticipation of the coming of Christ from Godhood to man, less about that singular miracle,  to something that is at a lesser state of being than what previously came before it!  We have softened the message of this miracle of Christ’s birth over time, we have sidelined God’s wanting to become flesh and blood as well as His love for humanity which is partly His motivation in becoming flesh and blood. We have changed the very definition of God’s purpose to fit our own less intensive version that is more politically correct and less threatening and less controversial.  We have changed the paradigm of God and turned Him into a jolly old man that gives tangible gifts instead of the intangible gift of salvation! Our modern Christmas for the majority of westerners leaves out this moment where we reflect and make ready our hearts in anticipation of Jesus the Son of Man  in His return so that we will finally and forever be with Him in Heaven. To me, this is the ultimate gift. It is a gift which cannot be bought, it never rusts or fades, it will be ours for all time and will never be taken away. It is the ultimate promise, one that is bigger, better, and more fulfilling than anything in Saint Nick’s green and red bag of toys. Because when we celebrate Christmas in it’s entirety we do not need toys to excite us or keep us from boredom because salvation is not boring!

So I say to you my brethren, the Lord Himself foresaw and provided for this time for the world to wait, hope, and pray for His triumphed return. The signs were all around the people of Judea, they are all around us today recognizable only if you believe and allow ourselves to see the true message of this remarkable holiday. For I tell you now that when a person understands the full meaning, knows the path yet to come, and fully comprehends what each word God spoke really meant, then the totality of that one miracle of Christ suddenly opens our eyes, hearts, minds, and His love becomes more accessible to us as we grow in the confidence that God is working towards our ultimate salvation through Jesus Christ. It is this miracle message we need to be celebrating and not the gifts that cost hundreds of dollars, the bling bling of modern day living, or even the decorations we allow to influence our motivations for celebrating Christmas in the first place. Our excitement of this season should be that which makes us ready to receive our savior.

6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ~ Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

Christian tradition as observed for most Catholics and some of the other religious denominations of Christianity in general believe in the coming of Christ in two parts. The First coming is typically called Christmas or the Nativity. However, a more appropriate term is “Advent”, which in its more basic meaning is, “Coming”. Breaking advent down more completely you have “Ad” = “To” and “Vent”=”Come”, leaving us with “TO COME”. Before the birth of Christ it was prophesied  that the word would become flesh and dwell among us in scriptures from Isaiah to Zechariah. Thus, within the Jewish teachings just before the birth of Christ the hearts and minds of the people where in this hopeful anticipation of the Savior or Messiah.  For those who understood prophecy also understood the signs to look for and in this case it was the Star of Bethlehem.  Christian tradition and the telling and retelling of the Nativity story has become the basis for the modern reason why we celebrate Christmas as a holiday. At first the meaning of Christmas was all about the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ. The celebration centered on the miracle of Jesus being sent by God, the act of the miracle of God made flesh. There was great excitement because to the Jewish people this would mean the end of Roman oppression! Oddly, it would be the Jewish leaders who would advocate Jesus’s death and the Roman Empire that would later embrace His divinity, thus combining two different holidays into one and called it Christmas complete with our modern Christmas Tree. But even then gifts where never at the center of the season, it was all about the hope and anticipation of Christ’s return or the Second Advent! So I say to you my brethren take time to prepare your hearts for God and reflect and be filled with the hope, love, joy, and anticipation of Christ’s return!

Advent | Sound Shore Media

ADVENT VIDEO ~ Concordia Publishing House, (2014)

Amen,

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Why We Reject God!

14 “For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.” ~ Psalm 94:14 New International Version (NIV)

Rejection

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We reject God for many reasons, most if not all of those reasons are selfish and immature! Most of our reasons are shortsighted; the result of decisions made out of some sort of emotional response to something or someone else that has hurt or embarrassed us. It is our ego which stokes the fires of rebellion against God and this unwarranted knee jerk reaction always goes awry and never in our favor! But most notably we reject God out of fear, disappointment, and because sometimes we are too busy playing the blame game. As imperfect beings we do not see the Godly picture; rather we view events within a single solitary moment that is focused so tightly the connections with all other events is out of focus and lost to us. Therefore, there is always this lingering question that we ask that invariably starts with, “WHY”!

Blame

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We blame God when things in our life go wrong, we blame God when something bad happens. We say to ourselves inwardly, “How could this possibly be happening to me?” Within that statement we proclaim ourselves innocent so that we are justified when we finally come around to lay the final blame on God! After all we reason that it is God because He has all the power so why didn’t He prevent it from happening in the first place? We take our anger out on God because I think sometimes our own personal pain is too hard to bear. We humans come up with a thousand reasons to blame God for our own torment. We are an inventive lot in our blaming and in our rejection of others and in our rejection of God. But I tell you that God does not reject us, so this rejecting of God is strictly a one way street!

The Truth About Rejection

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The truth is we all have experienced rejection of some sort and that we all reject not just God but also our fellow man. Tragic as it is we stop using logic when Satan introduces a personal pain intermixed with the rejection. Rather than to see it for what it is we reject those who have rejected us many times out of hand! In doing so we fall to Satan’s master plan of destruction through division! As unforgivable as that is it becomes even more so when we turn that pain into anger only to focus it squarely on our Lord and Savior. Within that action we reject His divine words, His promises, His miracles, His love, and in doing so we are rejecting our own inheritance! We are bullied out of it because rejection is something that we all fear, because no one wants to be rejected.

What It Means To Be Rejected

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I think that when we are rejected it makes us feel hurt because of what it means to be rejected.

So what does it really mean when someone rejects you or when we reject God?

Definition of Reject:

1.) Dismiss as inadequate, inappropriate, or not to one’s taste.
2.) Fail to show due affection or concern for (someone):

Synonyms: rebuff, spurn, shun, snub, repudiate, cast off/aside, discard, abandon, desert, turn one’s back on, have nothing (more) to do with, wash one’s hands of;

So why did Jesus say he must be rejected by this generation?

Perhaps so that he could live again, so that he could be our savior, so that Jesus could take on fully our sins and so He alone could wash us all clean.

My mother used to say this to me when I was a little kid, ‘Nothing worth fighting for comes easy.’

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So if we apply this to God then; God being rejected really meant that He in His divine wisdom was fighting for our souls. In our rejection of Him do we really find his eternal acceptance of us?

So in reality God rebuffed our sins, He refused to snub us, cast us off as a failure, an experiment gone wrong. God refused to discard us, abandon, or desert us. God did not turn His back on us nor did He wash His mighty hands clean of us. Rather He washed us clean with His blood, with His sacrifice, and with His perfect Love!

None of this was easy and it was only God who could have conceivedthis plan and then pulled it off!

Amen,

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True Meaning of Thanksgiving

Listening Faithfully Blog 2014 Post

18 “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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In past posts I have talked about Thanksgiving in the historical sense, explored the religious meaning, and I have delved into both sides of the human drama, (that being of the Native Americans and the English Pilgrims),  from a moral view.  But this year I wanted to write about what it means in a more detailed manner from the general view of family.

The very word, “Family”,  is the root that brought about the fight for freedom both here on Earth and in Heaven. In a broad sense God uses “family” as the template of every social group known to man. In every way we learn and grow from the bounty of our families. But this interaction is not exclusive to humanity rather almost every other bioligal life form that we know of on this planet thrives through lessons learned which both develop and mold such things as character, morality, compassion, survival, and even the idea of justice at some basic level. In the animal kingdom there is social order and hierarchical structures that are put in place to teach and which promotes the survival of the group or family. So in this broad sense family is the root of survival. But what does this hypothesis have to do with Thanksgiving, a man made tradition turned Federal Holiday? Well for this I share a deep secret found throughout the Christian Bible.

God is called the father! What is a father? In olden days a father was the head of the house, the disciplinarian, provider, protector, leader, mentor, teacher, and general supporter of all family activities. The same is true for Priests who are also called father for the same reasons but within a religious context.  Thus, it is from the father our families find a foundation and in this we see God as the head of every family both secular and religious. This structure within our families is from the divine and is pre-programmed into us from the start. In our celebration of family we are celebrating our very nature which we share with the animal kingdom under God. Because we are all related we are told by God to give thanks for the many blessings we receive from the father that which is in heaven from which everything is given. So Thanksgiving is the celebration of both blessings we receive throughout the year and is a celebration of  our families; the survival they provide on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis independent of our religious beliefs.

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In examining Thanksgiving from this perspective I asked my fourth grade students to write seven sentences about what they are thankful for and it is not surprising to me that they overwhelmingly wrote about their families. Few of them wrote about God though I teach in a Private Catholic School. Still fewer mentioned their teachers and the support we give them. Rather the majority was focused on their families love, kindness, sacrifice, and the many things they receive daily from their families. Many of those things are the necessities of life in general. Their paragraphs became evident to me of how we are all programmed by God to need the same things from birth till death. At the core of this need is the family unit!

So this Thanksgiving I celebrate the family in all of its forms be it biological, religious, social, political, economic, traditional and non traditional, friendships, and in a global community of beings sharing the same Earth, the same resources, and sharing the same needs. For it is within God the father’s plan that we celebrate our shared blessings, our shared needs, as well as our differences. Thus, I say to you in Jesus’s name are we to love one another and to jointly celebrate the role our many different types of families provide as it is granted first from God the father who art in heaven.

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Have a joyous Thanksgiving and remember to celebrate all things which are good that God has made.

I also ask that you keep the family and friends of our beloved sister Theresa Marie Mehan, born June 18, 1922 and who went to meet the Our Lord this past November 18, 2014 in your prayers this holiday season. 

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Amen

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