Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Teach Me

 A Reflection on Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 
By: Larry T 

According to non-canonical sources Joseph was born in Bethlehem in 90 B.C. and is thought to have died in 18 A.D. Biblical scholars generally fix the year of Jesus’ birth at 6 or 7 B.C. So Joseph could have been eighty something when Jesus was born. By all accounts Joseph, a descendant of King David, was a righteous and compassionate man, a devout observer of Mosaic Law, and known to be a man of profound faith. 

Jewish maidens were considered marriageable at the age of twelve years and six months, though the actual age of the bride varied with circumstances. By most accounts Mary was fourteen at the time of her betrothal to Joseph. By mutual consent and understanding between the spouses, Mary was to be a virgin, so her pregnancy would have astonished and shocked Joseph. Since the mystery of the Incarnation hadn’t yet been revealed to him, Mary’s condition presented him with a dreadful decision. On one hand she was clearly guilty of adultery, and if he exposed her scandalous pregnancy she would have been stoned to death. On the other hand stoning was a slow torturous death; he couldn’t bear the thought of it, so he decided to divorce her quietly. But, the Lord had other plans for him.

20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord  appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.”
- Mt 1:20-21 N.A.B

Joseph’s fidelity to God was sorely tested by this dream. He could have easily ignored it and continued with his plan to divorce Mary quietly, but, with Abram-like faith in God, Joseph took her into his home.

Herod’s fury at the deception of the magi put Joseph’s trust and devotion to God to yet another test.

13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
– Mt 2:13, 14 N.A.B.

And just as Abram before him heeded God’s call to leave his home in Haran and travel to the land of Canaan (Gen 12:4-6 N.A.B.), Joseph heeded God’s command to flee with Mary and the infant Jesus to safety in Egypt.

15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” - Mt 2:15 N.A.B.

The Lord had yet more directions for his obedient servant.

19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt
20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.
23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”
– Mt 2:19-23 N.A.B.

Mary was most likely born in Jerusalem, though some theologians insist on Bethlehem or Sephoris (about three miles north of Bethlehem). She was the daughter of Joachim and Anne. Joachim belonged to the royal family of David, and Anne was a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron. It’s for this reason that Jesus is said to have come from both a royal and priestly family.  

The childless Joachim and Anne had prayed long and hard for the gift a child, and when Mary came they presented her to the Lord in the Temple. Our Church celebrates the Presentation as a revelation of Mary’s total dedication to God’s service and obedience to His will. Some early Church Fathers wrote that Mary was three years old at the time of the Presentation and that she remained in the Temple to be educated with other children. There she also made a vow of virginity and enjoyed ecstatic visions and daily visits of the holy angels.  

Why would she consent to marry Joseph when she had made a vow of virginity? Mary must have had implicit trust in the Divine guidance that she had received, and therefore was certain that her vow would be kept even in her married state.  

Her “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” shouldn’t be a surprise considering her background.

34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”
38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
– Lk 1:34-38 N.A.B.

Her virgin pregnancy was another matter. How could she explain it to Joseph? The penalty for adultery was stoning, so her life was in imminent danger. She wouldn’t be able to conceal her condition for long. If Joseph didn’t report it, her neighbors and relatives were certain to do so.  

How much trust in God did it take to sustain her through the trials of the birth of Jesus, the desperate flight to Egypt, and return to Nazareth? Can we even begin to comprehend the devotion to God it must have taken for Mary to stand at the foot of the cross, watching in silence and horror, as her son suffered the most punishing death the Romans could devise.  

The Holy Family faced untold hardships on their hasty flight to the safety of Egypt. But their combined faith and trust in God enabled them to prevail over danger and overcome unimaginable difficulties. We also know that they didn’t have much money because on the eighth day following the birth of Jesus, when Joseph and Mary went up to the Temple to present him to the Lord, their sacrificial offering was a pair of birds. This suggests that they couldn’t afford to buy an animal for the sacrifice, a sign that they were poor (Lv 12:6 N.A.B.). 

On this Sunday as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we might ask ourselves what they have to teach us. Is there a greater example of faith and trust in God for us to imitate? Do we need a better illustration of how trust in the Lord can give us the strength to overcome hardship and persevere in the face of adversity? Who can deny that God’s Holy Family was comprised of a man, a woman, and a child?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


(a reflection on Matthew 1:18-24, 4th Advent A)
by: Deacon Paul Rooney

 "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus."

Joseph’s response to God can lead us in many, many directions, but today I would like to focus on just two points.  The context, of course, is Joseph’s humble submission of his will to God’s will in all things, which is what one would expect of someone called "righteous."

There is a Dominican mystic from the 14th century that is often quoted, because his words capture so well our own participation in this process of submitting to God's will.  His name is Meister Eckhart, and he asks the questions that we all ought to consider.  First he asks: “What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?”  Both Mary’s “Yes” (that brought Christ to the world), and Joseph's "Yes" (that gave a perfect example of unconditional trust in God)—those two events are not just “memory events” (such as recalling that Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan set records to remember).  Instead, they ought to lead us to ponder how to imitate them: how can I bring Christ to the daily world that I live in and participate in?  Do I reflect Christ in what I say and do?

A second question that Meister Eckhart asks: “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son . . . does not take place within myself?”  When God comes to dwell within us at our Baptism, we are empowered to live the Christ-life, one oriented to loving God and Neighbor.  Do I see that orientation in my own heart, or am I still oriented to selfishness?  Do I humbly submit to all of the teachings of the Church, or do I pick and choose?

In summary: like Joseph and Mary, have I truly given an unqualified “Yes” to Jesus in my own life?  Is the submission of my will to God unconditional?

St. Joseph, patron of family life, pray for us!

+ + +


Friday, December 13, 2013


Joy!  That is the message this Sunday.  We light the pink candle, and we look to our joyous celebration of Christ’s birth as well as to His second coming, which we wait for amidst the groaning labor pains of all creation. Even in suffering our joy is at hand. 

This is why I love Enya’s version of O Come, O come Emmanuel.  It has that soft mournful tone of a world that is subjected to futility, a world that longs for redemption.  And echoing in the background, as if from somewhere outside of time you hear: Rejoice! Gaudete!

And we need to know that our rejoicing is not a glib refusal to accept the harsh realities of our day, but an enduring hope that we can indeed reject the concerns of the flesh, which lead to death, and receive the Spirit of God, which is not enslaved by fear:  "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'" Romans 8:15

We received this through Christ who came with power and strength as a baby, born into a family.  Who came and touched individuals, those who yearned for redemption.  Do you yearn?  Every candle we light during Advent should increase our yearning. Pray for that, and you will begin to perceive the joy that is always present in His Kingdom.

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers,and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD,the splendor of our God.Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
Advent blessings to all!

I decided to add a video of my daughter singing in the Wayne State Madrigal choir's Celtic Advent Carol...I apologize for the late start and the shaky camera work (I was holding an infant).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prepare the Way of the Lord!

Reflections for Sunday, December 8 --  The Second Sunday of Advent

By: Judy Morss

For those of you who keep the tradition of the Advent Wreath, we light the second candle today. Candles one, two and four are purple in color. The first candle which we lit last Sunday is called the prophet's candle and it symbolizes hope. We think of Isaiah, the Prophet, who foresaw the coming of our Messiah.  The second candle is known as the Bethlehem candle and it symbolizes faith and preparation as we prepare for the coming of Jesus. The third candle is pink/rose in color and is lit on Gaudete Sunday. The priest wears rose colored vestments; my priest laughingly tells us that he is "pretty in pink." This candle is called the shepherd's candle and symbolizes the joy that was proclaimed by the angels when Jesus was born. The fourth candle is called the angel's candle and symbolizes peace and love when Jesus came to earth.  Some churches and families add a fifth candle, a white candle.  This candle is lit on Christmas Eve and is known as Christ's candle.  The Advent Wreath can be a wonderful symbol of our Advent journey as we move closer and closer to the beautiful gift from God, the birth of our Savior.

Today's gospel is taken from Mathew 3:1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism,
he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Advent indeed is a time of waiting, of hope and of preparation. Just as John the Baptist, we are crying out in the desert. We are looking and longing for something. Often we don't know what we are looking for; we just know that we have a hole that cries out to be filled. The Baptist reminds us that we need to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God -- Christ himself. We should be focused on "making straight His paths." We often wander about in the darkness or in dim light, not sure where we are going or what we have as our objective. It is so easy to get involved in the preparation of Christmas and lose sight of the wonder that is before us. In order to straighten my path, I need to ask God for forgiveness and hope. If I focus on the holiday instead of the Holy Day, then I wait for Christ in vain. When I spend more quiet time with Him, I begin to see in the birth of Jesus what He really means in my life and what He gives me. Through His love, my life can bloom and flourish. I can indeed make a straight path for Him to enter directly into my heart. May the season of Advent draw you closer and closer to our Savior and as you light another candle each week, may your straight path become brighter and brighter.

With peace and love,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

"I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013

sponsored by the Catholic Bloggers Network.

Be sure to visit as many links as possible,

listed at the bottom of this post.

Trusting in Your Awkward Fiats

“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may instruct us in his ways,

and we may walk in his paths.”

It is Advent!  What is your plan for you and your family?  What sort of prayers will you say? What gifts of charity will you prepare for the Christ child?  How will you awaken wonder and awe for the first coming of Christ in yourself and your family? How will this Advent make His voice more recognizable to you and your children, so that you are prepared for His second coming in glory, so that you can alert others? What part of the secular celebrations will you take part in, what will you let go of?

Are you overwhelmed yet?

Last year a popular blogger asked her readers to share epic Advent failures.  I have had a few of those myself. What I have discovered is that, when I persevere in family prayer, even my epic Advent failures have produced fruit, though I did not know it at the time.

One year, in addition to the traditional prayers and hymns around our Advent wreath, I wrapped an empty box for Baby Jesus that the children were to fill with little slips of paper describing their hidden acts of kindness and charity.  They were gifts for Baby Jesus.  Within in a week it was tattered and torn, shoved to the back of a shelf. I presumed it was already forgotten in the flurry of activities. Epic Advent Fail!

But on Christmas Day I opened it and to my surprise, it was full of little slips of paper, mostly written by my Junior High aged children.  I had forgotten to "promote" or "hype' that activity, but the children knew it was there.  They did not need me to make it exciting and fun, they needed me to open the door to Him.  How did I open the door?  Through our family prayers and Scripture readings.

In fact, a few years later that Christmas was bought up. That activity had placed a seed in one particular child's heart that has begun to grow; it is still remembered.  The gifts he received that year are completely forgotten, the gift of awakening to Christ's coming was still in his heart.  Let me remind you, that activity was one I considered and Epic Advent Fail!

In reality, it was not the activity so much as it was the family prayer time that kept Christ in Christmas. The activity was fruitful only through the relationship that was present by finding Christ in His Word and in His Church.

photo by Heidi Knofczynski
Celebrating Advent with unsorted socks all around us.
Don't worry how your prayer time looks, just do it!  Ours does not resemble anything one might describe as pious (think more of a three ring circus). Many nights our Advent prayers feel distracted and poorly done – what with the fire hazard and little children who are fighting over whose turn it is to blow out the candles and the older, sulky children who have piles of homework to do -- there are often a lot of side bars during our prayer time (which may or may not include a parent who has lost all patience and finds him or herself screeching at the children in a not so peace-on-earth way). And, all too often I feel our Advent prayer time is hastily done; the holiday activities make for later evenings and children must be put to bed. Mom and Dad need to have a little time to chill, maybe even with a glass of wine (We do! We really, really do!).

Who could possibly be getting anything out of it!!  Don't quit, muddle through!

See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
muddling through

In the wilderness I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers. Isaiah 43:19

It takes a firm hope that our time spent in praying the Scriptures with the children -- a sort of  fumbling and awkward fiat our family gives, will be enough. We see through the glass darkly, it is difficult to recognize His movements in our efforts to bring Christ into our Christmas preparations. Give Him your fiat anyway, read from your Bible and light the candles, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  Open the door and prepare the way for Christ!  He is coming!

Peace and Grace to all, Heidi

This post is part of Keeping Christ in Christmas, hosted by Catholic Bloggers Network
Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Simply Homeschool Living Advent Series 12/1 - 12/25
Fifth of Five Keeping Christ in Christmas - Blog Link-up 2013
Coffee Moments with Sam The Light of Hope
Hand-Maid With Love: CHRISTmas Presence: Keep Christ in Christmas 2013 Edition
Open Window Making hay while the Advent wreath shines
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home: Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others
Mommy Bares All Why Celebrate Christmas Even After #YolandaPH
Canadian Catholic Mom Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling Keep Christ in Christmas
Em’s Estuary: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Happy Little Homemaker: December Devotion: Immaculate Conception
Adoro Ergo Sum: How We Keep Christ in Christmas
JoyAlive.net: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Home to 4 Kiddos Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats
Joy of Nine9 Waiting in Joyful Expectation Like a Child
Splendor in the Home Ideas For Keeping Advent and Christmas Holy
Training Happy Hearts 10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year
A Catholic Life Advent: The Beginning of the Liturgical Year & Source of Rich Meditations
Designs by Birgit: Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus
Catholic Inspired: Faith-Centered Family Christmas
A Slice of Smith Life: How we keep Christ in Christmas
Catholic All Year: Three Reasons I love Advent
Mary the Defender: Christmas The Battle Begins
Truly Rich Mom: Keep Christ in Christmas
Day By Day in Our World: 40 Days Seeking Him and Keeping Christ in Christmas
Diapers and Drivel: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Raising Soldiers 4 Christ: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Rosary Mom Keep Christ In Christmas With A Teenager
Tercets: Keeping Christ in Christmas: Join Church Ministries
Campfires and Cleats How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Life Unabridged: Celebrating the Fullness of the Advent and Christmas Season
Homeschooling With Joy Keeping Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique's Desk Keeping Christ in Christmas

Our ABC Life: An Advent Update
Journey Living: Anno Domini
The Road to Rome: Advent Prayer and Reflection Resources
Life of Fortunate Chances: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Quidquid Est, Est!: Reblog: Advent Posts

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  
1 COR 1:3-9

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Frankie Award at Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network

Click here to see all the nominees
Check out Catholic Spirituality Blogs Frankie Award Nominees, including one from Journey to Wisdom (Why Are You Still Sleeping)! Read and vote for your favorite one.  It will be difficult, they are all excellent, but it will be time well spent. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Daddy, Why Doesn’t God Love Me?

A Reflection on Malachi 3:19-20 

By: Larry T 

Sunday mass was over, but before her parents could stand up to leave Vanessa tugged urgently on her father’s suit coat sleeve and whispered, “Daddy why doesn’t God love me?” 

Andrew looked down at his six year old daughter in surprise and saw that she was serious - nearly in tears. He looked directly into her wide brown eyes and said, “God loves you. Vanessa, whatever gave you the idea that He doesn’t?” 

“But, but, Daddy the man said that we have to fear God’s name. And if I have to be afraid of His name that must mean that He doesn’t love me. 

Andrew leaned back in the pew and looked over the top of Vanessa’s head at his wife in a silent plea for help. But Carol gave him a blank look and shook her head. His shoulders slumped with the realization that he wasn’t going to get any help from her – he was on his own.
Looking directly into his daughter’s eyes, he said, “Honey, believe me, God loves you!” 

More insistently, she said, “But Daddy if I have to be afraid of His name doesn’t that mean that I have to be afraid of Him too?” And if He really loves me I shouldn’t have to be afraid of His name!” 

Andrew took a deep breath and said, “Vanessa, the bible is a really old book. That part of the bible was written hundreds of years ago and since it’s so old, we don’t have to pay attention to that part of it.” 

“Are you sure Daddy?” 

“I’m sure. And I know that God really loves you.” 

Shaking her head slightly from side to side Carol stared at him with amazement. What garbage, she thought, but she didn’t try to correct him. 

“Mommy, does God love me?” 

“Yes Vanessa, I’m positive that God loves you!” 

“Well, okay, if you say so.” 

Andrew exhaled in relief and said, “It’s time for us to go home.” 

They rose from the pew simultaneously and as they began to walk to the exit Vanessa reached for her father’s hand with complete trust and love.  

As they walked to the car, Andrew was annoyed that his young daughter had been so disturbed by a scripture reading; he was even angry at the Catholic Church and frustrated with his own inability to answer Vanessa’s question. He hated misleading her. The root of the issue is in the reading from the Book of Malachi: 

19 For the day is coming, blazing like an
            when all the arrogant and all evildoers
                        will be stubble,
And the day that is coming will set them
                        on fire,
            leaving them neither root nor branch,
                        says the LORD of hosts.
20 But for you who fear my name, the sun
                        of justice
            will arise with healing in its wings;”
And you will go out leaping like calves
                        from the stall
- Malachi 3:19-20, N.A.B.R.E.

Is fear of the Lord really an out dated phrase that we can ignore? In the Old Testament this expression appears in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel,
1 Kings, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judges, Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, and Isaiah. The book of Sirach expresses it beautifully:

11 The fear of the Lord is glory and
            gladness and a festive crown.
12 The fear of the Lord rejoices the heart,
            giving gladness, joy, and long life.
13 Those who fear the Lord will be happy at
                        the end;
            even on the day of death they will be
            -Sirach 1:11-12, N.A.B.R.E.

The New Testament includes fear of the Lord in Acts of the Apostles, 2 Corinthians, and
1 Peter. In Acts of the Apostles we read:

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the holy Spirit it grew in numbers.
-Acts 9:31 N.A.B.R.E.
What Fear of the Lord is. The gift of the fear of the Lord, Fr. John A. Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, confirms the virtue of hope. We often think of hope and fear as mutually exclusive, but fear of the Lord is the desire not to offend Him, and the certainty that He will give us the grace necessary to keep from doing so. It is that certainty that gives us hope.
The fear of the Lord is like the respect we have for our parents. We do not wish to offend them, but we also do not live in fear of them, in the sense of being frightened.
What Fear of the Lord is Not. In the same way, Father Hardon notes, "The fear of the Lord is not servile, but filial, In other words, it is not a fear of punishment, but a desire not to offend God that parallels our desire not to offend our parents."
Fear of the Lord was expressed in the Act of Contrition that I learned as a child:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. 

As they walked to the car Vanessa looked up at her parents and smiled at them; it was a smile unconditional love and trust that little children who grow up in loving homes have for their parents. This is the kind of love that we must have for our God; little children such as these show us the way.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Exploding Heads and the Kingdom of Heaven

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”
Lk 17:20-25
Channel surfing last Wednesday I watched a snippet  of a History channel production that was going to reveal secrets of the Bible!!!! Not usually my thing, except that the only other acceptable option to watch was a Nova production on the JFK assassination which  had “new” facts that showed that Oswald was the only shooter. Okay.  Not being in the mood to watch Kennedy’s head explode in slow motion over and over again,  I flipped back to the  History channel…but that was a mistake,  because now it was time for my head to explode!

It was the same old and  reductionist theories about Jesus and His kingdom, which -- for those of you who are ready to take a secularized leap of faith   -- has nothing to do with a heavenly kingdom, or even  a church for that matter!  No way!  That was all added later on by misguided, power hungry, misogynistic and/or ignorant leaders of the early Christian church.  Leaders who were trying to justify their doctrines by creating a divine messiah out of an itinerant preacher/ zealot / nice dude (whichever you prefer to sell your book) therefore obscuring His true message until modern intellectuals could sort it all out. Thank heavens (by which I do not  mean  life beyond this world, no way, that would be ignorant, and anyway, where is the hope in that?)!  As for the Kingdom of God it was here in this political view or there in those subversives against that governmental system.  It might even be me, myself, and I, who knows… but it was not supernatural.

It is also not an honest and complete assessment of the message of the Gospel, which is  good news beyond your deepest desire, and  which emerges like a lightning flash even in the darkest most hellish, hopeless places in this world.  The companions of Maximilian Kolbe during their  torturous deaths glimpsed it, and I do not think the    banal theories of TV scholars could ever explain how or why their deaths differed from  the deaths the Nazi’s were hoping to give them; deaths that were supposed to be used as a horrific reminder that there was no hope for their prisoners,  either surrender your humanity or suffer horribly and die like an animal.  With the Kingdom of God so powerfully present in Maximilian Kolbe, those prisoners did neither, they died with heaven overtaking them.
In the end, my husband and I gave up on TV and streamed Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which may explain the extreme heckling tone of this post).  I apologize for that, but well…my head exploded! 
Here are more  thoughtful rebuttals  by the good Father Robert Barron:

On Resa Aslan's Zealot

 on John Dominic Crossan

I am praying for all who have their hopes diminished and desires misdirected!
Any one else have a good link or resource which helps refute the reductionist Biblical interpretations that are so prevalent in the media?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Is Your Hope Full of Immortality?

A reflection for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time by Heidi Knofczynski

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God

As I pondered the readings for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, which contain the passages from Second Maccabees telling the story of the hellish torture and execution of seven brothers and their mother, I was reminded that, in this world, sometimes places of horror and suffering are places where the Kingdom of Heaven emerges powerfully from those who call upon the Lord. Enduring hope is kindled in these places of earthly desolation, and true freedom, for God is the God of life, not of death, a God of freedom from fear and tyranny. Are you truly as free as you are meant to be?

…that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,

Fast forward to Luke’s Gospel account of Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees -- the intellectual elites of their day  – and we see that even in Jesus’ time there were those who, even with the glorious witness of the seven brothers and their mother, (though it is said that the Sadducees did not accept anything other than the first five books of Scripture as authoritative), did not believe in the resurrection. They rejected the gift of true freedom which is rooted in eternal life.  It is a philosophy (not uncommon in our time) which binds us to only what we see and feel, and therefore, binds us to fear of losing those things. Fear enslaves all. God frees all who take refuge in Him. Jesus breaks through the superficial Scriptural interpretation of the Sadducees by showing them the truth that was always present in the Scriptures they dissect: God has made us to live eternally.

“even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out 'Lord, '
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive."

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski Contrasting the Sadducees weakness of faith (being so rooted in this world) with the faith of the seven, I guess, if you can't believe in something greater, the only thing you can do is ridicule what they died for. In the story, the seven brothers are tortured and executed one by one for not conforming to the king’s decrees to worship a god other than God. If the Sadducees really understood the story, they would have understood how ultimately free one is when the eternal God has been put first. When you really trust that you can hide in the shadow of His wings, not for temporal gain, but for eternal gain; the gain to behold His face.

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law.

The king at that time was determined to abolish the Jewish faith by making it illegal to follow God’s laws and statutes. They could not legally offer pure worship to God! The obligation to violate God’s laws was enforced by terrifying displays of torture and execution! If the fear of losing worldly pleasure and comforts did not break devotion to our eternal God, then a more primal fear was invoked, fear of a tortuous death. Their highest hopes were to be placed in the powers of this world to keep them safe and sound, to preserve their lives. Fear was to rule over them.

"It is my choice to die at the hands of men
with the hope God gives of being raised up by him;”

Instead, the brothers and their mother placed their hope in the eternal; a reality more real than their earthly suffering. In doing so they were graced with the freedom to suffer all things, to not be reduced to their fear of pain and death, and thus to merit eternal life. Eternity is not for wimps!

…After him the third suffered their cruel sport.  He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words:  "It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again." Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing

How horrifying! I am a wimp, I hate even reading about it! Yet, in this story of martyrdom, these young men and their mother demonstrate a hope beyond hope. They show us something that we already have an inkling of deep in our souls, but something that the “Sadducees” of the world are always trying to rationalize away: What we see -- even what we feel -- in this world is not all there is! This world is not the ultimate reality. It is not eternal. The young men refuse to allow their faith to be rationalized away…even under the threat of unfathomable torture. Enduring in this hope is a gift that we should pray to receive.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.

It is true, the “Sadducees” around us are always trying to reduce our faith to strictly earthly terms i.e., our most real reality is to depend on governing structures that will give us lots of good stuff, lots of assurances of safety and protection. We are to fear losing our lives, we are to fear losing our looks, we are to fear being a nobody, we are to fear being rejected, we are to fear…. and we are to look to the world to assuage our fears. As we do that we are enslaved to them and reduced to finding our “happiness” in material comforts and in ourselves. I ask you, and myself again, are we truly free? Is your hope full of immortality?

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace,encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.

I will leave you with this beautiful song "I Shall Not Want" by Audrey Assad which can be found on her newest album Fortunate Fall, it is a prayer that I think is appropriate for this post, enjoy!   Heidi


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Will You Accept His Invitation Today?

The parable of the Great Banquet in the Gospel of Luke  brings back memories of my Presbyterian Sunday School and Wednesday release time instruction.   How many Bible stories I remember because we sang them! 

He replied to him,
“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.
When the time for the dinner came,
he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,
‘Come, everything is now ready.’
But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.
The first said to him,
‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen
and am on my way to evaluate them;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have just married a woman,
and therefore I cannot come.’
The servant went and reported this to his master.
Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,
‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in here the poor and the crippled,
the blind and the lame.’
The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out
and still there is room.’
The master then ordered the servant,
‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in that my home may be filled.
For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my
What puzzles me most about this parable is that is seems that the neighbors invited initially said yes!  But, in absence of a true and intimate friendship, they really meant yes, unless....

It is so important to take time everyday to pray and to develop the capacity to know and respond to His voice.  To order my actions, my hopes, my dreams and my ambitions to Christ.  And, oh boy, did I need this reminder, because life has been craaaaazzzzzy lately (on top of everything else:  potty training …need I say more?).  Being that I am not an overly organized person this has caused major disruptions, and there is a pressure to jettison any activity that is not necessary or “productive”.  My high hopes for the day are for dry pants (that would be for Max)  and dinner on the table before bedtime, how on earth can I think of more than that!!

 It is so easy to give in to the temptation it is to push my relationship with Christ off to some abstract, distant Neverland.  But you can't just stumble into Heaven, you must be intentional in your desire to be there!  If He calls for me today, if today is my last day in this world, will my desires be ordered on the Wedding Feast of the Lamb or will they be diverted and perverted by the cares of this world?  Will He have to look elsewhere for someone to hear and respond to Him?

Here is the song…but be warned it is an ear worm, you will be humming it all day long.

(I had to update this because my whole reflection did not copy over, and while I am at it, here is what Pope Francis had to say.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Communing with the Communion of Saints

     For several years I've been interested in this being "in Christ":  what does that mean and how does it manifest in my life?  One aspect of being a part of Christ's mystical body involves the communion with saints.  From Merriam -Webster.com, communion is defined as an act or instance of sharing; intimate fellowship; a close relationship with someone or something; a body of Christians having a common faith and discipline.  From a lovely podcast on the communion of saints (1), communion was defined as the sharing or exchange of intimate thoughts or feelings on a mental or spiritual level.  I can certainly see the sharing of thoughts and feelings with those living saints I know, but what about the saints who have since departed earthly life?  How do I commune with them?   What lessons are they trying to teach me? 

   Oh the great the joys of reading the lives of the saints, a perfect way for our saints to share their inmost feelings and thoughts...of course!  We have just about every type of person in our communion of saints.  (see Rev 7:9, St John's heavenly vision of a great multitude...from every nation, race, people, and tongue, First Reading from All Saints Day Mass).  I've so enjoyed reading about the lives of St Therese of Lisieux, St Ignatius, the Blessed Virgin Mary and others. God can work through these members of His body, the Church--we participate in the saints holy work when we discover and imitate their holy, love-filled and good ways of living.  Alan Schrek in Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs  (2), called it the incarnational principal.  For example, our ultimate role model, Jesus, provides us with ways of acting with love and compassion.  So when we model these Christ-like behaviors to others, it reflects His life in the world. St. Paul recommended this as well:

       1 Cor 11:1  "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."  
       Hebrews 13:7 recommends "remember your leaders,
       those who spoke to you the word of God;
       Consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith."  

Thus, as we humans model our lives on persons both living on earth and those passed on, through which we are able to bring Christ to others and grow His body.   Pope Emeritus Benedict explains it this way:
    At the General Audiences in the past two years we have been accompanied by the figures of so many saints: we have learned to know them more closely and to understand that the whole of the Church’s history is marked by these men and women who with their faith, with their charity, and with their life have been beacons for so many generations, as they are for us too. The saints expressed in various ways the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen One. They let Jesus so totally overwhelm their life that they could say with St Paul “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Following their example, seeking their intercession, entering into communion with them, “brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from their fountain and head issue every grace and the life of the People of God itself” (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 50 and CCC 957).  
   For the past year I've immersed myself in reading about St Thérèse of Lisieux, the patroness of my confirmation name, and a wonderful model of holiness is every day life. Several years ago, I paged through her autobiography, Story of a Soul (4), but I didn't appreciate its treasure.  Last year in Lent our parish hosted weekly talks based on the book, I Believe in Love, by Father Jean C.J. D'Elbée, and so began my reading frenzy on the Little Thérèse.  My very latest reading project on her, The Way of Trust and Love (5), by Father Jaques Philippe, is my absolute favorite!  Father Philippe has a most awesome way of explaining St Thérèse, her way of spiritual childhood, and its practical application to daily living.  What a treasure, I highly recommend reading this book!

   My first delight was how St Thérèse used the elevator, namely Jesus, as the means to achieve the heights of heaven.  To do this she had to remain little and become even more little.  She looked at all kinds of wonderful saints and felt just like an obscure grain of sand compared to a lofty mountain top, yet had that deep desire to attain heaven and sainthood.  She realized that "God cannot inspire unrealizable desires.  I can, then, inspite of my littleness, aspire to holiness."   Yes, for awhile there reading the lives of saints brought me discouragement for they were so holy, I too felt like that grain of sand.   Yet Thérèse searched scripture and found Proverbs 9:4:  "Whoever is a little one, let him come to me."  She sounded quite like St Paul, writing, "I am not disturbed at seeing myself weakness itself.  On the contrary, it is in my weakness that I glory, and I expect each day to discover new imperfections in myself." (4, pg 224, C 15r)  Amazingly, she found a way to be happy and to profit from her miseries, and came to understand that her faults caused God no pain, filling her with joy.  Fear had filled her with recoil, yet love made her advance, quite quickly too.  Therese noticed that  "Jesus doesn't want me to lay up provisions; He nourishes me at each moment with a totally new food;  I find it within me without my knowing how it is there.  I believe it is Jesus Himself hidden in the depths of my poor little heart; He is giving me the grace of acting within me, making me think of all He desires me to do at the present moment." (4,pg 165, A 76r)
    I discovered another beautiful, holy woman with that unfailing reliance and trust in God:   Blessed Dina Belanger, a religious sister from Quebec.  She writes, "O Jesus, O my heavenly Mother, I know that it is you who are fighting my battles; grant me the grace constantly to be faithful in allowing you freedom of action." (6, pg 256)  Not only did Blessed Dina rely on Jesus, she felt him to be her divine substitute and relied on His personal redemption:  "Sweet Master, O my divine Substitute.  I always rely on your infinite generosity to pay my debts.  Not to mention my debts towards God and towards you, I count on your power and your love to repay infinitely my debts toward others."  (6, pg 21).  Spiritual substitution...a new name for an idea brought to light in the Bible; we find it in these two religious women and in Saint Paul's writings:  
       Galatians 2:20  "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me..."
       Romans 8:32  "He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all,
       how will he not also give us everything else along with him?"--
Yet the idea is even older as evidenced through out the Psalms, 
        Ps 37:23-24  Those whose steps are guided by the Lord;
       whose way God approves,
       May stumble, but they will never fall,
       for the Lord holds their hand.-- .
       Ps 23: 4  Even when I walk through a dark valley,
       I fear no harm for you are at my side;
       your rod and staff give me courage. --
       Ps 28:6-8  Blessed be the Lord,
       who has heard the sound of my pleading.
       The Lord is my strength and my shield,
       in whom my heart trusted and found help.
      ...Lord, you are the strength of your people...
    But remember Moses confronting the Lord and how his speech had never been eloquent?  The Lord responded: Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf and dumb?  Or who gives sight to one and makes another blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Go, then!  It is I who will assist you in speaking and will teach you what you are to say."  Ex 4: 10-12  One could say that God's plan all along involves indwelling us to shape us in His love.
   I find this idea profound:  that God would so love me to save me at my weakest points by offering His own grace, strength, skills and power--I suppose He'll help at any point, as long as I ask for His help!!  Its taken me a while to realize that I do need this saving power every day, and have come to daily "beg for the grace" (as taught in the Ignatian prayer series Lord Teach me to Pray--Thank you St Ignatius!).  St Thérèse came to realize being little also " means not being discouraged by our faults, because children often fall over, but they are so little they don't hurt themselves badly."  Father Philippe explains the fall we take in our little state is not from a great height (the height of pride or self sufficiency, for example), so we aren't really hurt, and we get up and throw ourselves into our parent's arms, then start over again.(5, pg 42)We must have faith and trust in God that He will provide for our needs as they arise.  Jesus reminds us that we need not be anxious about the past or future (Mt 6: 31-34), and He tells St. Paul His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9) One factoid of note, Jesus said at least 10 times (according to wikianswers.com) "Your faith has healed you." Must be important!

     St. Thérèse's little way reconfirms the biblical way of total trust and belief (faith) in God (His mercy and love), and His ability to save us from the mess of our life. Humility means accepting our poverty and weakness, accepting ourselves as we are, with love, knowing we are still beloved by God. It also means living in the moment and not worrying, begging God for grace needed for each challenge we face. Humility also means realizing that every good and beautiful thing in life comes from God, the one source of truth, goodness and beauty. We might also make the next step and live each day with a grateful heart too.

    Lastly, I'd be a loud gong if I left out love (1Cor13) for St Thérèse's chosen vocation was love.  Her goal in loving was to be like God:  bearing each others burdens and faults, not being surprised by their weaknesses and learning from each act of virtue we see them practice. Mother Theresa reminds us, “It's not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.”  No one is immune from the ability to show kindness and compassion to another; never should it be "hidden in the bottom of the heart." ( 4,pg 220, C 12r)  For when St Thérèse felt charitable, "it is Jesus alone who is actiing in me, and the more united I am to Him, then more also do I love my Sisters." (4, pg 221, C 12v)  So, if we can't muster the love from our own will, we can certainly beg God to pour His love into us, be our divine substitute, beg for the grace to love another as He would love. 

"The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers, and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and doing the least of actions for love." --St Thérèse
    Yes, my friends in Christ's wonderful, mystical body, the Communion of Saints, have taught me some of their ways to greater holiness using attitudes of love, humility, gratitude and trust, and total reliance on God's grace.  Now I have to work on putting that all into daily use!  I'm sure we could change the world if we'd only strive forward on this path of holiness! 
Praise be to God for the Communion of Saints
Our role models and teachers in holiness
   All you Holy Men and Women pray for us!
Feast of All Saints, 2013
1.  Podcast on Communion of Saints:  http://radiomaria.us/livingwithmarytoday/feed/podcast, Nov 4, 2011, by Father John Fletcher
2.  Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs, Alan Schrek, Servant Books, 2004
3.  From Pope Benedict's General Audience on Wednesday, 13 April 2011
4.  Story of a Soul, ICS Publications, 1996
5.  The Way of Trust and Love, Father Jaques Philippe, Scepter Publishers, 2011
6.  The Autobiography of Dina Belanger, The Religious of Jesus and Mary, 1997