Archive for May, 2016

imagesPUDVQR78Sacrifice: To forfeit something for something else considered to have a greater value.
Sacrifice does not mean giving up something for nothing; it means giving up one thing for something else we believe is worth more.
Sacrifice is part of the very definition of what it means to truly love another person. In fact, intimate relationships require sacrifice. I think we understand this most in the context of family, because we do sacrifice for our spouse, our children, and our parents. And one of the most important, and hardest, things to sacrifice for family is often our time.

 

Today’s society tries to obliterate sacrifice at every turn. Ads promise people that they can fulfill their desires without having to forsake anything at all. “Lose weight without giving up your favorite foods!” “Get a great body without long workouts!” “Get rich without having to work hard!” The denial of sacrifice is everywhere. How about our soaring credit card debts–and of course the national debt?

But it’s a fairy tale to think you can have whatever you want without sacrifice.

If you want to lose weight, you have to stop eating what puts the weight on. If you want to get ripped, you have to work out. If you want to be loved, and to love, you have to show another person that you would give up something of importance for them. Love and Sacrifice are intertwined–and they cost us, sometimes a great deal.

For Christians, the greatest sacrifice given out of love is the ransom Jesus Christ paid for us. And I believe the second greatest sacrifice was that of his mother, Mary. Can you imagine watching as your beloved innocent son suffered and died? Mary did something that only she and God have done. They both freely allowed their only Son to be a sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

Pixabay Photo

Pixabay Photo

The Latin word sacramentum means “a sign of the sacred.” In the Catholic Church, the seven sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and important for Christians. They are special occasions for experiencing God’s saving presence. That’s what theologians mean when they say that sacraments are at the same time signs and instruments of God’s grace.

There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders. The purpose of each one is to make people holy, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God; but being signs, they also have a teaching function. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and object, they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called sacraments of faith.–Catholic.org

This blog is about one of the sacraments, the Sacrament of Marriage, and how it can lead us toward holiness.

Marriage is meant to be a lifelong union with the purpose of creating holiness in a man and a woman. In marriage each spouse gives up some rights over his or her life in exchange for rights over the life of the other spouse.

As Fr. John Hardon explains in his Pocket Catholic Dictionary, there are four elements common to natural marriage throughout history:

1. It is a union of opposite sexes.
2. It is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse.
3. It excludes a union with any other person so long as the marriage exists.
4. Its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract.

So, even at a natural level, divorce, adultery, and “homosexual marriage” are not compatible with marriage, and a lack of commitment means that no marriage has taken place.

It is important to remember, however, that the opposite occurrence of any of these points does not keep God from loving that person as if he/she were the only person in the world–He does. Neither does it keep God from continuing His offer of grace to all.

As a sacrament, Marriage is truly a vocation. But there will be ups and downs. Sometimes those ups and downs will be terribly exhausting,  and seemingly unsolvable. But then, out of  commitment, comes divine grace.

Marriage is a vehicle for God’s grace, his sanctifying grace which helps each spouse to help the other advance in holiness, as well as helping them together to cooperate in God’s plan of redemption by raising up children in the Faith.

In this way, sacramental marriage is more than a union of a man and a woman; it is, in fact, a type and symbol of the divine union between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Church, the Bride. As married Christians, open to the creation of new life and committed to our mutual salvation, we participate not only in God’s creative act but in the redemptive act of Christ.–Aboutreligion.com

Photo by CBCS, 2014, MorgueFile.com

Photo by CBCS, 2014, MorgueFile.com

I can’t say enough good about the work of Dan Stevers. I’ve used Dan’s videos in several of my presentations because we are on the same page—especially in the following video, God of the Broken.

God is truly God of the Broken. My novels and short stories revolve around this, too.  Some of the characters don’t realize it at first. They refuse to see themselves as they really are. Others are shattered, or left behind, by someone they’ve loved. But then, as in life, something changes for them, or more specifically in them. Some of my characters, but not all of them, recognize an offer of healing. The recognition comes when GRACE is offered.

God’s grace is infinitely available. We only have to want it, to take advantage of it. We only have to trust in Him. We only have to turn around and see Him behind us, possibly in the face and actions of a caring human being that He’s called to help us.

Our lives will change then; maybe in ways we never imagined, or maybe in the way we’ve prayed for. Whatever–we will be transformed.

Can you think of a time in your life when you were so down, so miserable, that you couldn’t put one foot in front of the other? Grace is very present in these circumstances. Often, the time we encounter God’s grace is when our life hangs in the balance. Especially in our sins, God encounters us, offering us grace and mercy and redemption.

It is a ‘waiting’ grace, waiting for us to take it. Maybe we have to admit our weaknesses. Maybe we have to give up what is dragging us down. Maybe we need to dig deeper for courage, or patience with others, or let go of our anger, or forgive another. Or unfortunately, maybe we just ignore its presence.

But we should never imagine that God is not present. Instead, we should imagine ourselves reaching out to Him, to realize that being broken at a given moment does not mean being broken forever.

And it is, after all, up to us.

Because we are all broken people yearning to be whole, and that wholeness is within our reach.

When a child is born to us, we may look at him or her and say, “Oh, she’s just like her mother,” or “He’s the spitting image of his father.” But as our child grows we see likenesses in more than just appearance, because a child will imitate the parents in actions, too–the reason parents play such an important role in their child’s life.

What are we handing down to our children?

Are we handing down honesty? Do we show them that we value ourselves and others? Do we give them an example of working for something we want, or only that we deserve to be given something we want? Have we taught them that God created them, that He exists and loves them?

Our children are watching and listening.

But they are not only listening to us. The world is smaller, now, with social media. They can listen to anybody, anywhere, with no moral sense. Are we paying attention to that? Or do we even care whether our children have morals?

Twenty years ago, David Elkind, a professor emeritus of Child Development at Tufts University, and formerly professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester, warned about this:

Up until mid-century, most young people died from polio, tuberculosis—from disease. Fortunately, medical science conquered these illnesses, but today we lose as many young people through stress-related causes as we once lost through disease. We lose 10,000 youngsters a year in substance abuse-related automobile accidents. We lose 5,000 kids a year in suicide. We have two million alcoholic teenagers. All of these are stress-related problems arising from the fact that in our society the needs of children and youth are simply weighted less heavily than the needs of adults. A few decades ago, women consumed millions of pounds of tranquilizers because their needs were not being met. Today children and adolescents are reacting to stress in equally self-destructive ways.

If we really want to attack this problem, we can’t just talk about drug and sex education. They are important, but we have to talk about how we can better meet the needs of children and youth. Their needs for love and care and adult supervision and guidance. Their need for more space for activities. More age-appropriate curricula. More sense that they are important in their parents lives and in the life of society.

I was watching a documentary program last night. The reporters were asking a group of kids about stealing and lying. These kids had no strong moral sense about doing these things. They didn’t worry about whether the person would be hurt or damaged by taking something from them. It’s not true for all of our children, but I think that to the extent we don’t really care about kids, kids are not going to care about other people.

Now, twenty years later, many young people don’t care about other people, but only about themselves as evidenced by bullying, stealing from, and even violently harming others. Have we handed down this selfish attitude? It is surely a fact that in our society today, the needs of children and youth are weighted less heavily than the needs of adults. Think abortion, and the horrific selling of baby parts by Planned Parenthood.

I’m all for certain rights for women, but I shudder to think of what the next twenty years will bring if we don’t come to the conclusion that our children–created by God–are immeasurably valuable, and worth more than just a little of our precious time.

Photo by Melodi2, 2010, MorgueFile.com

Photo by Melodi2, 2010, MorgueFile.com

 

Gospel Jn 3:16-21

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

The pine tree graphic was created by IMeowbot

The pine tree graphic was created by IMeowbot

One fourth of the world’s population is between 10 and 24 years of age.  The New York Times calls it the Youth Bulge, and goes on to say that. “At no point in recorded history has our world been so demographically lopsided.”

But we’re not only demographically lopsided, we’re becoming lopsided in our considerations of what is actually true and decidedly false.

The fact is 17% of people between 16-29 years of age are neither in school or employed, so one can imagine that they’re not reading, or studying, and probably not happy either.

These young people are our future, and the future of the country Americans fought so hard to have, yet many of them seem stuck to social media, taking delight in putting down the country that–so far–allows them to be free.

Recently, I’ve watched two very instructive, and entertaining, Revolutionary War series. One is John Adams, about the life of the second president of the United States. The other is Turn, about the changing sympathies of certain Americans toward England during the revolution. One cannot watch these without realizing the debt of gratitude each of us owes to the men and women who fought for our freedom.

But today, not only the young people without jobs or ambition, but their parents as well, have come far away from what those Revolutionary Patriots fought for. If any one of those involved in the making of America could come back and take a look a some of our legislation, I believe they would think we have collectively lost our minds.

In this political season, we must vote to make America great again. We must restore our basic good sense and the values that made us great. The flag at the top, The Tree Flag (or Appeal to Heaven Flag) was one of the flags used during the American Revolution. The flag was commissioned under George Washington’s authority as commander in chief of the Continental Army in October 1775.

The American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights, are not just stories somebody made up. Real people fought, thought, and brought freedom and greatness to us, and now, all that is threatened by politically correct words used to gain votes from some and to throw the rest of us off balance. We need to again to show the true story of our country, beginning with November’s election.

Photo by Irish Eyes, 2007, MorgueFile.com

Photo by Irish Eyes, 2007, MorgueFile.com

It is a fact that our lives as human beings sometimes become broken.

But how do some people remain unbroken even when awful things happen to them?

What is it that keeps a person going–when he/she’s gone under financially, or been diagnosed with a sickness that saps all strength, or when a child is lost, or when they’ve been betrayed by someone they love, or even when they, themselves, have made egregious, personal errors?

Is it our physical or sensual strength?

Animals have also been given strength, and the ability to see, make sounds, feel, taste, and hear. But animals cannot make a conscious, mental decision by way of free will, memory, or imagination.

Animals have not been given access to immateriality—things that are not achieved only by the senses. Animals cannot solve a mathematical problem, create music or art, run a business, decide to forgive or not to forgive, or make any life-changing, moral decision, because an Animal cannot decide what is good and what is evil.

Nothing in the physical world outside of us will keep a human being from breaking in difficult situations.  It’s the spiritual world within us that will give us the strength to endure and overcome.  And every human being has access to it. In fact without it, we would not be human.

Remaining unbroken is possible because human beings are made in God’s likeness.

If a child is brought up knowing that he or she is a child of God, possesses His divinity, and actually participates in it, then the child is less likely to succumb to brokenness and suffering in his adult life.

The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator.

By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good.”

By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding” manifestation of the divine image.

By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil. –Catechism of the Catholic Church

We can’t expect other people to take away our brokenness. We can look only to ourselves, to the spirit of God who lives within us.