“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!

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

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

The All-Consuming Passions of Mankind pt.1

The Differences between Love and Hate

In this first installment we will explore man’s definition of love, and in that the two all-consuming passions that utterly take us over and blind our reason forcing us to do both heroic and barbaric things to others depending on whether we feel love or hate for them.  In reality there is a very fine line between love and hate and in our brain there is virtually no difference between them.  That I know is a shocking statement in and of itself, but never the less this strange and scary construct has been scientifically proven to be true.  But before we go there let’s begin with scripture and then apply man’s definitions we have created for these two all-consuming emotions.  Let’s examine them biblically first then move into science.

1 peter

8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” ~ 1 Peter 3:8-9

The Perfect Example of Love

The simple message carried throughout the Middle East and into Europe in the decades after the death of Christ by His disciples was a very basic one, “Love one another.” The absolute “Love” of God or “Agape Love” was the example and is today the hardest to achieve. I have to think that God would not have shown us such a perfect love if we as mortals could not attain it and in that we look to Jesus who throughout all the hateful things others did to him and others he loved never once acted out with anything in his heart other than this agape love of Gods.  So with that said we can extrapolate this purest of all love is attainable and should be our starting point in our search for the true definition of what Jesus really meant by;

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34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” ~ John 13:34

Love Defined

It has been long debated what love is, how we should love, what love looks like, how to handle heartbreak, and the strong emotion love overwhelms us with. We have undoubtedly struggled with this concept we call love and in our rational mind love makes us do things which makes no sense to our personal well-being but rather fulfills a basic need all people are born with from the start.  This struggle all people contend with in both their personal and professional lives is further complicated with our struggle to understand an equally overwhelming emotion known as hate.  Hate presents the same questions as does love and it appears as strongly in our hearts as does love. One could even argue that hate is loves evil twin who twists loves goodness into a pool of unrecognizable film of darkness.  Therefore, love is an emotion which is equal to hate, and the line which divides them is much thinner than we could have ever imagined.  It boggles the mind how love could be at the root of a hateful act, and vice-versa, how hate could ever be linked to love.  In an attempt to explore this paradox we must first start with the modern definition of love;

Love is defined as –

  1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
  3. Sexual passion or desire.
  4. A person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
  5. (Used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?
  6. love affair; an intensely amorous incident; amour.
  7. Sexual intercourse; copulation.  ~ Found online at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/love

First Form of Love

Each of the seven definitions covers a huge realm of emotions, feelings, and actions that are linked to other emotions that help to build this intense feeling of love.  An example of this is found in the first definition: a profoundly “tender”(the word “tender” is different than the word love and is uniquely described as being: weak, immature, easily moved, soft, young, delicate, not strong or hardy, and or gentle. ~ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tender ).  This word “tender” must then be viewed as nothing more than a supporting feeling of love linked in our actions for or against others while always playing a minor role in the background.

Example: I can argue in a “tender” way and thus be perceived as not being strong or weak on the argument. I can console another person “tenderly”, and thus be perceived as being soft and delicate. I can have a crush on another person and thus be perceived as being young or immature in my actions towards them, even biased when compared to others. None of which equals the emotion of love, but are qualities found in love. I could easily argue with my girlfriend or wife in a tender way so as not to hurt their feelings, I could console them softly, and act childish in my actions in private and when defending them become very bias because of my love for her. This extends to our children and other family members. We say this is love but in reality it is the expression of love in its weakest or mildest form.

Love Me Tender

So being “tender” is the first act of showing a growing emotion for another person and consequently the step to becoming vulnerable and complete exposed. It is proceeded by the second definition of love: a feeling of warm personal attachment – (here again we now are part of something bigger than ourselves and this most basic of emotions fulfills a primal need programmed into every person on earth by our creator – the need to belong. ~  http://listeningfaithfullyblog.com/2009/04/18/reflections-1-a-real-relationship-with-god-relationships-series/ )

In this first ever blog posting of Listening Faithfully I try to point out how we are hot-wired from the start by God in order that these emotions should guide us to serve our Lord emphatically.  However, the love that manipulates our choices and decisions are profoundly linked to first becoming willingly subdued to the strong over powering emotion of love. Therefore, the first sign of this would be to do something for someone else that in reality you would not have otherwise done and in this your actions are “tender”, others may perceive you as being silly or weak and even soft.  This perception can be both good and bad and carry with it a diverse volume of consequences, both unintended and intended.

Example: The irrational act of giving flowers or presents to a person you’re infatuated with without knowing their true feelings for you first – spending money you probably should have kept – defending a person even if it puts you in a weaker position with others – and my personal favorite, the games we play with ourselves when trying to justify these actions either to ourselves or others who have called us out on it.  However intense the act of being “tender” is in our own mind we are in reality sending signals out to the world like a probe in search of love – to test if this new connection will fulfill our most basic needs of belonging.

The Evolution of Love

Again, in all of this love is becoming stronger, our actions more manipulated, our ability to reason is more compromised, and this wonderful all-consuming emotion drives further into our heart and mind as it progresses into the next more powerful definition of love – that being: sexual passion or desire.  In this stage of love we as human-beings are able to express the deepest of emotions – the power to share without fear of being compromised – the need of confession is realized as is the bond between two people is thus born into it’s infancy not unlike an impenetrable bridge made of iron and concrete.  Sadly many people confuse the pleasures of this stage of love with the act of having sex which is a primal effort to pass ones genes on so as to insure the survival of one’s own lineage. In this confusion of feelings love becomes the act of having sex rather than the tenderness of giving flowers, or the soft manner we hold each other’s hand, or even the ability to argue softly with love in our voices. These pleasures are then lost as our bodies begin to crave carnal pleasure and our mind and emotions become detached from the true purposes of love. Therefore, what some would call love is in reality a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God. For no other reason is there so many divorces and children born out of wedlock.  For no other reason is there the crimes of passion we see played out nightly in the news, and the broken hearts of children who are left wondering why their parents are absent in their lives. ~ For a deeper explanation Click Here

FAMILY

On the other hand when these emotions are handled in a mature responsible way with dignity and respect do we see the miracle of God in the faces of our children, is there the foundations drilled deep that support a whole productive and balanced family unit, and in this do we see couples love and honor each other until death do they part.  But even this outcome is dependent fully on the trick of our minds and emotions that love weaves that allows us to do things we would not otherwise do with not clear benefits to ourselves but yet greatly benefits others around us. In this more complete definition offered by the bible do we find the root of love and also it evil twin – that of hate.

With that firmly rooted in your mind, I am always called back to the biblical definition of love – a definition where love is defined in a broader and more diverse way; one that goes far beyond the online dictionaries we have at our fingertips today and which I have quoted from in this posting.

1Corinthians_spread1.0

“4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

With this universal standard we can begin to understand what love really is and how powerful it can be.  We begin to fully view the greatest gift of all and how it manipulates our thinking, alters our actions, and provokes both heroic and barbaric deeds. We literally scratch the surface of this gift given to us by God and yet just start to uncover the deepest consequences it holds for all man-kind.

Amen

If you liked this Reflection – The All-Consuming Passions of Mankind pt.1… then please leave a comment.  Also please “LIKE” and “SHARE” this post with others.

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SPECIAL NOTE:

Dr. Kallay was my boss and God Mother at Ascension Catholic School and she has recently retired due to health issues.  I am sharing the video I made on behalf of the Ascension Community to Honor her 11 years of service. CLICK HERE