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, October 6, 2018

Who is in Heaven?

Sunday, October 7, 2018
A Reflection on Mark 10:15-16, N.A.B.

By: Larry T. Smith

Who is in heaven, or who do we hope is in heaven, and how can we get there? A friend of mine still grieves deeply over the death of her son, her only child, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident a few years ago. In a dream she saw her son and Jesus in heaven riding magnificent rainbow-colored horses laughing and smiling having a great time. So, she is convinced that her son is in heaven. But, is he in heaven? Maybe, I don’t know. And how often have we heard someone speaking from the depths of their grief and misery at the loss of a loved one, proclaim: I know that he / she is in a better place. When one of our loved ones dies, it gives us comfort to believe that they are in heaven waiting for the final bodily resurrection. But, are they? Maybe, we hope so. 

Still yet, the question remains: who is in heaven? We might focus our attention on verses 15 and 16 of Mark’s Gospel reading for this Sunday for the answer:

Blessing of the Children. 13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” 16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Do any of the other Gospels repeat this theme? Yes, the author of Matthew’s Gospel writes: 

Matthew 18:2-3: 2 He called a child over, placed it in their midst, 3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Similarly, the author of Luke’s Gospel writes:

Luke 18:16-17: 16 Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

In all three gospels Jesus tells us who is in heaven: it is those of us who accept God’s loving gift of salvation as a grace, a free-will gift from God, and who trust Him implicitly. Jesus tells us to use little children as our model because of a child’s complete dependence on and trust in its parents. But, what did He mean by that?

Last year I watched my two-year old granddaughter taste chocolate ice cream for the very first time. As the very first half-spoon of the dark brown frozen concoction settled on her tongue there was a look of wonder on her little face; then the look of wonder changed smoothly into wide-eyed amazement as her taste buds enveloped it, finally her shiny little face broke into a wide open smile and her arms flew open in greedy, yet joyful anticipation of the next spoonful. Her loving mother patiently fed her one spoonful after another. When the ice-cream was finally gone my granddaughter flashed her mother an unforgettable look of love and gratitude.

First, Jesus tells us that heaven is inhabited by those who accept God’s gift of salvation with amazement and joy. Then, He tells us to have complete trust in God the Father who will lovingly nourish us with spoonful by spoonful of that which is necessary for our salvation; it is a gift that we didn’t earn or merit. My granddaughter was completely dependent on the love of her mother for the next spoonful of chocolate ice-cream; there was nothing that she could have done to earn or merit it. 

Who is in heaven? It has always been those among all of humanity who have had the same loving, trustful dependence on God that little children have for their parents, and who follow His path to salvation. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018


Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Reflection on The Letter of James 1:17, 27 N.A.B.

By: Larry T. Smith

In his book on the Letter of James, Catholic theologian Father Patrick J. Hartin

Of all the writings of the New Testament the Letter of James provides the closest link to Judaism and is an eternal reminder to Christians of their origins and roots within that heritage. This letter is a remarkable testimony to what Christians and Jews hold in common.

In the very next paragraph Father Hartin surprises some of us with:

The Letter of James also provides a bridge to the world of Islam. Everything in this letter resonates with Islam’s religious worldview and beliefs. Its focus on God as the one from whom all good comes and on whom all rely is central to Islam’s monotheistic vision.

The Letter of James Chapter 1, Verse 17 supports Father Hartin’s position:

 all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. 
- James 1:17 N.A.B.

Have we forgotten that all good things come from God; have we forgotten that they are not products of our own contrivances?

The Letter of James continues:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27 N.A.B.

If we acknowledge that all good things are gifts from God, we must also admit that they are meant to be shared with the poor and vulnerable.

Last winter the leader of a Scripture study class stated that this is not only our personal responsibility, but all countries share the same responsibility. The ten most developed countries in the world are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States; they have a mandate from God to share their good gifts with less fortunate countries wherever possible—with no strings attached. When that was said, a very Catholic and spiritual woman immediately jumped up and angrily grunted through clenched teeth, “But it’s ours! We shouldn’t just give it away!”

While it may seem counter to our present culture, we must never forget that the kingdom of God on earth, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, is universal—there are no national or international boundaries—all peoples are God’s children.

The kingdom of God on earth, about which we speak, came through the death and resurrection of His Son, not through barbarous force or undisguised displays of wealth which established the kingdoms of the world. Many of us, in our own day, are witnesses to the power of the kingdom of the risen Jesus to overthrow proud and oppressive regimes and to give hope to the humble and poor, and to do so with remarkable restraint, dignity, justice, and peace.

The seventh of the Themes of Catholic Social Teaching is the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable:

“A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgement in Matthew 25:31-46, and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.”

We can and should rejoice that organizations such as Cross Catholic Outreach, Save the Children, Knights of Columbus, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, and a myriad of other charitable organizations reach out to the poor and vulnerable whenever conditions permit. Even so, there are still plenty of otherwise good Christians in our midst who insist, But it’s ours! We shouldn’t just give it away!

Dare we imagine a world in which a developed country like the United States would go to the leaders of a country whose people are suffering from drought and starvation and say, It is our duty to share the good gifts that we have received from God with you. We offer you, from our surplus, this stockpile of grain because your people are our brothers. How many loyal allies would such a country have? In reality, could that ever happen? Probably not, but individually we must remember that all people in the world are God’s children. Because, if we do not carry around love for our brothers, we might as well be carrying around a corpse.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Wisdom of Proverbs 13:20 for Our Children

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

A Reflection on The Letter to the Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 N.A.B.

By: Larry T

One of the most important life lessons we can teach our children is the ageless wisdom of Proverbs 13:20:

Walk with the wise and you will become wise,
but the companion of fools fares
- Proverbs 13:20 N.A.B.

And, because it emphasizes using care in choosing the friends and people they associate with, we should repeat it to them often.

Understandably, this subject was weighing heavily on St. Paul’s mind as he composed his letter to the Ephesians and made this bold statement:

17 So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; 18 darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, 19 they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess. - Ephesians 4:17-19 N.A.B. 

If we are going to fully comprehend, “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do” we have to familiarize ourselves with the lifestyle of Ephesus at time of Paul’s writing. In the New Testament era Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the world, behind Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. And it was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the great temple of the Greek goddess Artemis (or Diana, according to her Roman name). Whereas Diana was worshiped in most Greek cities as a secondary deity, in Ephesus Diana was a prominent deity and worshipped as a fertility goddess. The Ephesians proudly and jealously claimed her as their own goddess. For over a thousand years Diana and her temple provided the focal point for the rich religious, economic, and cultural life of Ephesus. Part of the cult of Diana was the use of ritual prostitution whereby the devotee became joined with the goddess through her priestesses, thereby ensuring her favor throughout the year. So it was that educated prostitutes affiliated with Diana worship controlled the city. Beyond that, Ephesus was a hotbed of wizards, sorcerers, witches, astrologers, diviners of the entrails of animals and people who could read one's fortune by looking at the palm of one’s hand.

Such was the society from which Paul’s recently formed community of Jesus-followers emerged. Paul worried over the possibility that his converts might give in to the temptation of reverting back to the old ways of the Diana-followers, who by his description had given themselves over to “every kind of impurity to excess”. Doesn’t every parent worry that their child might get in with the wrong crowd? Therefore, even though his flock of believers had to remain physically integrated with the broader community which included nonbelievers and Diana-followers, they were to behave as true followers of Jesus. Does his concern echo Proverbs 13:20, Walk with the wise . . .?

In some respects, the modern society, that our children are thrust into is similar to Ephesus of St. Paul’s time, so parents need to equip them to cope with it, and the wisdom of Proverbs 13:20 can help.

What about adults? What value does the wisdom of Proverbs 13:20 have for an adult living in our modern society? Just last week the following headline appeared on the front page of our local newspaper: “Mom’s Boyfriend Arrested After 2-Year Old Suffers Skull Fracture”. Sadly, events like it seem to be commonplace in our society; when the initial shock of it fades away we can’t help but wonder, what was that Mom thinking.

“Walk with the wise and you will become wise, but the companion of fools fares badly.” We should repeat it and think it often, even bore our children with it.

And, for those of us wishing to advance in our own prayer life, Saint Theresa of Avila goes so far as to offer this bit of advice concerning companionship: “the soul should avoid a close association with evil and mediocre people and make it a point to mix with the good, . . .”

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Riches Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 8:9 N.A.B.

By: Larry T. Smith

This Sunday we might focus our attention on 2 Corinthians, Chapter 8, Verse 9. Saint Paul writes:

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Because of God’s grace and the redeeming work of our Lord Jesus Christ we have riches beyond our wildest imaginations, But, we must proceed cautiously through life because the earthly world that we live in will make every effort to strip us of those riches and leave us penniless. This very old, Middle Eastern story illustrates the point:

In the very olden days there was a bankrupt merchant who resorted to swindling his customers and neighbors out of their hard earned money to pay his debts. This natural-born thief even managed to cheat many of the villagers out of their lifetime savings. Eventually he was found out and arrested and ordered to be imprisoned by the local judge. Even so, this thief didn’t change his ways. He immediately went to work on his fellow prisoners and managed to cheat them out of every cent in their pockets and their other meager possessions as well.

By and by the other prisoners appealed to the judge for protection from the scoundrel.

After some deliberation the judge decided to release the thief from prison to protect the other prisoners. Instead of being joyful, the thief objected and said, “This prison is my bread and butter. If you let me out, how will I live?”

The judge not only released him, but also hired town criers speaking ten different languages to make sure that every man in every town was aware of this man’s dishonesty and thievery.

According to the custom of that era the man was sat on a camel and walked around the village all day long. The cameleer, the owner of the camel, was already dreaming of the hay money he would earn. Town criers were screaming in ten different languages about how dishonest and thieving a man the merchant was. When night came and the cameleer said, “Enough! Give me my hay money,” the man said, “you fool, they are announcing in ten different languages that I am a dishonest man and a thief. What hay money? Are you not hearing what everyone else is?” 

Interesting story, but a bankrupt merchant, town criers, camels and cameleers? Is there a moral to this ages-old Middle Eastern story? What can we learn from it?

The thieving merchant is the worldly culture that we live in; it is a thief whose purpose is to strip us of the spiritual riches earned for us by the redeeming work of our Lord Jesus Christ and send us off penniless. The town criers announcing that the world is a thief in ten different languages are the prophets. Their messages are passed down to us through Holy Scripture—the Holy Bible—that has been translated into six hundred seventy languages. The New Testament alone has been translated into one thousand five hundred twenty languages and Bible portions or stories into one thousand one hundred twenty other languages. Thus, the prophets and evangelists continue to warn most of the civilized world about the thief. The cameleer represents those people who are fascinated by the positions, status and fortunes offered by the world.

The cameleers in our modern world are people who choose to ignore their spiritual wealth or were just never properly taught about it. But the price paid for it, as Saint Paul tells us, was high: as each fist pummeled Jesus’ face, as the skin on His innocent bare back was ripped open as He was being scourged, as the crown of thorns was jammed viciously down on top of His head, as His wrists and feet were nailed to the cross, His precious Blood was being spilled and He sank deeper and deeper into poverty so that we will be spiritually rich. This might be a good time to pause for a few minutes and give thought to just how much of our spiritual wealth was contained in even one single red drop of His priceless Blood.

Perhaps this is also a good time to reflect on the possibility that many of the horrific crimes being committed in our country and the world in general are by people who have fallen prey to the message being preached by the worldly culture that we live in. They have been taken in by the bankrupt merchant and become spiritually penniless, living out an empty and hollow existence.

If we choose to ignore the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament evangelists, the agony of Jesus’ Passion and poverty will have been for nothing; we, too, will then sink into spiritual destitution and hopelessness.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Power of the Word

Christ cleansing a leper by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze, 1864.


   On this icy cold, blustery day, as I spent the morning hour contemplating our mass readings and praying the rosary, the thought came to me how powerful is the Word of God.  In Mark 1:40-45, we see how our Lord immediately grants a begging leper healing with a word and touch.  Jesus warns the healed leper not to tell anyone and to go to the priests, and make an offering as Moses prescribed.  Chapter 14 of Leviticus details the elaborate ritual for purification; after reading through it, a modern day reader might understand any reluctance the leper had in performing the detailed ritual. In the end, we don’t really know what motivated the leper to begin talking about the healing instead of following the advice of Jesus.  I can only imagine the joy the person felt at being made clean, free of leprosy and all the social isolation it invoked.  Yet by spreading the good news of his healing, the man made it quite difficult for Jesus to continue his own healing ministry, inadvertently increasing our Lord’s isolation from the towns.
    This gave me to ponder how we can lose sight of the Lord when we don’t follow his teachings; how we push him out of the very public places of our life when we don’t follow his teachings and precepts.  He becomes a peripheral entity, as we place priority on our own thoughts, desires and actions, and so bringing less and less of the Lord into the world.  Then, when we are suddenly overcome with our own leperous condition, we end up seeking Him again for the healing only he can give.  Often our search can be a look outside of ourselves for the healing that really can take place within.   We forget that the Lord is Emanuel, God with us!  So how do we keep this "God with us", with us?
   Today’s Luminous mysteries give us a way to the Lord….and it begins with listening to the Lord.  Isn’t it amazing the luminous mysteries all involve a progressive call to listen to the Lord.  In the first mystery as Jesus is baptized, God the Father calls out:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!”  Yes, we would want to listen to the One most pleasing and closest to God!  In the next mystery, Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-12), Mary encourages the servants (and us!) to listen to the Son, the One most pleasing to God the Father.  Then in the third mystery, Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7),  we hear from the Son all that He teaches as the new Moses and law giver of God.  In a grand theophany of God, the fourth mystery confirms that God wants us to listen to his Son, during the Transfiguration mystery. (Mark 9:2-8). The last mystery involves the institution of the Eucharist (Matthew  26: 20-18), the ultimate listening post where we meet and listen to God’s still small voice, as we silently adore Him in the veiled but real presence in the Host.  We can find Him in adoration or within the Mass…  either way He is there to heal and cleanse us.
    As we start back to Ordinary time, we get these little lessons in living the faith:  recognize the Lord Jesus as our Savior and healer, listen to His words and heed His commands, which you find in the Holy Scriptures, knowing that God the Father fully approves!  Continue to seek Him in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our catholic faith, where that still, small voice speaks words of life, love and healing for our broken world!  

Ps 43:3-4, 5b

Send your light and fidelity,
that they may be my guide
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place of your dwelling,
that I may come to the altar of God,
 to God, my joy, my delight.
Then I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God…
Wait for God, for I shall praise again,
my savior and my God.