Created in Love

Image by AliceKeyStudio from Pixabay

Last week I wrote about how God created everything in the universe, plus He created us. Out of everything that He has ever created, or will ever create, we are his most beloved works of art. How do we know this? Because he made us in his own image and even blew air into our lungs. He is part of us. We weren’t made just to be loved, though. We were made TO Love. That’s part of us being a representative of God on earth; we are made to love one another as he loves us.

“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Techer, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'”

Matthew 22: 34-40 (NABRE)

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he didn’t say that it was to keep the Sabbath holy or that you shouldn’t eat meat on Fridays. No, he said that you will love each other as God loves you. Jesus even tells the parable about the Good Samaritan who saved a man who had been severly beaten and left for dead. Did the good Priest, a man of the cloth, stop to help the critically injured man? No, because if he had touched the man the Priest would have been considered “unclean” and wouldn’t be able to enter the Temple. Do you think God really cared if the Priest was “unclean?” No! He wanted the Priest to help his fellow man by loving him enough to stop and get him help.

Even when we mess up, God still loves us. Even when that Priest walked by the man in the ditch, God still loved him. He loves us so much that he gives us so many chances to ask forgiveness. None of us are beyond redemption. We may have to pay the consequences of our sins, but we can still be redeemed and know that God loves us. Have you ever heard somebody describe their child as an “oops”? How many people grew up being told that they weren’t planned and therefore they were an accident? I wish that parents wouldn’t tell their children such things because NONE of us were accidents! God knows us all by name and He even knew us before he knit us in our mother’s womb. God gave you life and put you on this earth at this point in time for a purpose. NOBODY was an accident! If that were the case, do you think he would have given his only son to die for our sins so that we might be reunited with Him? Absolutely not. None of us are really worthy of that kind of love, and yet God gives it to us every single second.

That’s the problem with addiction and listening to the negative voices. They convince us that we have no purpose and that we are worthless. That there isn’t a God and that nobody will ever love you or can ever love you. Don’t listen to the lies! I know it’s hard to drown out and sometimes it’s a battle just to keep from falling into the pits of despair, but always fall back on the fact that God loves you no matter what! Because you are redeemable. Because you are lovable. Because you are a child of God and he lovingly created you to be the person that you are right now at this time.

I want to ask you to please make sure you pick up a copy of Rescued; The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel by Fr. John Riccardo. Read it and take it to heart. We need to be the Good Samaritans for those people who have been beaten up and left bloody by the negative voices. It is our job to pick them up and show them the healing Word of God, for the Truth will set you free!

Weeds Among the Wheat

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“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?

Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘” ~Matthew 13:24-30 (NABRE)

Can you relate to this parable? Have you ever planted a garden, tending it with care, just to discover that as your delicate vegetable plants are growing they also have buddies growing up right next to them that aren’t supposed to be there? Did you ever get daring and attempt to pull the weed? I’ve had to replant the good plant quite a few times due to my desire to be rid of the weed. Fortunately for me my tomato plants are much easier to replant than a stalk of wheat.

It’s really disheartening to look out at a vast field that was so carefully planted with good seed and see all the weeds growing among them. You did everything that you were supposed to do, but all it took was one errant weed seed to find its way into your field and then the weeds were all over. That must be how God feels when he looks at earth. He so carefully created the earth, the animals and humans. He made us in his own image and then blessed us. We were good seed. Then the snake crept in and spewed evil all over, which turned us into one of the weeds. God couldn’t remove the sin that we had done, so he pulled out the good seed along with the weed and tossed us out of the Garden of Eden.

The thing is that God tries to give us all the Miracle Gro and extra nutrients that he can to help us grow. He wants to harvest us all and welcome us back into his presence when the time comes. However, evil is among us planting its seed and watching us be crowded out by the weeds. What is God to do? The only thing He can… when the time comes the harvesters (angels) will come and take the good seed with them and toss the weeds into the fiery pit.

It’s up to us to make sure that we remain good seeds. We can’t allow the weeds to sap the nutrients from the earth and starve us out. If we hold together and gather with like people, then we can grow even better and overshadow the weeds. We need to stay true to ourselves and not give the weeds a good foot hold. Be the best person that you can be. Don’t lower yourself to the same level as the weeds. You are better than that! Just because the Queen Anne’s Lace looks pretty doesn’t make it any less of a weed. Stay true to yourself and your faith. Love God and love one another. Remember, God loves you.

Sheep or Goats?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say

Image by Rajesh Balouria from Pixabay

to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous eternal life.” ~Matthew 25:31-46 (NABRE)

This verse from Matthew was on my heart this morning when I woke up. I’d had a dream that I had been killed in a car accident and found myself at my time of judgement. Images flashed before me and I recognized them as times in my life when I was less than Christ-like. I hit my knees, in tears, begging for forgiveness and mercy, but feeling like I deserved neither. That’s when I woke up. I’m not sure if I would have then been shown the better moments in my life, but it was a very sobering dream.

Ever since the first time I heard this passage it has become my biggest fear. Will I be numbered among the goats? Despite my best efforts, will I still fall short and be sent to gather with the goats?

I firmly believe that our God is loving and merciful, and despite our many failings, He will forgive us if we are truly repentant. Yet, we can’t rely on just our faith to get us into His kingdom. We must do our best to care for the least among us and make sure that we are carrying out Christ’s mission on earth. Have you fed the hungry? Have you clothed the naked? I don’t believe that we have to check off every item on the list in order to get in, but you need to try to do at least a few of these as you can.

So what do you think? Will you be numbered among the sheep or the goats?

Happy Father’s Day

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Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 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. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. ~Matthew 1:18-24 (NAB-RE)

Today in the United States we will celebrate fathers; the men in our lives who raised us, taught us, and mentored us. On my blog today I want to celebrate Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus. He had such a big role to play in the beginning of Jesus’ life, but we don’t actually get to read much about him. It’s never said where he goes or why he isn’t around with Mary when Jesus is crucified. What it does say, though, is that he adopted Jesus as his own, protected baby Jesus when Herrod was killing all of the first born males, and then brought Mary and Jesus back from Egypt when it was safe so that Jesus could fulfill the prophecies.

Being a dad is a difficult job. You provide for your family, protect them from harm and typically you have to be the disciplinarian. When a child gets hurt or sick they usually want to be comforted by their mom. When a child needs something fixed or somebody to play catch with them, they turn to dad. I realize that I’m using stereotypical roles, but let’s just go with this for this one post.

How much more stress was on Joseph? Not only was he raising a child as a first time parent, but in the back of his mind he knows that this is God’s son. If he was a nervous father before, this probably kicked it into overdrive. Can you imagine being the protector of the Savior of the world? Do you think that he played “I’ve got your nose” with Jesus? When Jesus fell did he nonchalantly tell Jesus to just rub some dirt in it? How many times did he tell Jesus to “think fast!” before throwing something at him?

Today as we thank God for giving us the good men in our lives to look up to, let’s also include Joseph in our prayer. He stepped up to the plate when it counted and adopted Jesus as his own. Without his assistance Jesus might not have been the Savior that we know and love. It was a tough job, but Joseph did it well.

I know that it’s not Christmas, but in honor of Joseph please take a moment to listen to the song Joseph’s Song by Michael Card.

Fishers of Men…

Footprints in sand
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  ~Matthew 4:18-20 (NAB-RE)

Reading about how Jesus calls the first disciples always has me wondering the same things: How could they just drop everything and go with Jesus? Did they realize what they were getting into? Did they really know what was going to be involved? What was it about Jesus’ presence that made people drop everything and follow him? What would I have done if I had been in their sandals?

Why would Jesus choose fishermen? These were just ordinary men. They would tell you that there wasn’t anything special about them, and yet they were chosen first. If Jesus came to earth to teach and proclaim the gospel then why didn’t he go to the Temple and choose from among the religiously devout? If you want to teach about God and his kingdom then shouldn’t you go to the people who are trained professionals?

There’s a phrase that I’ve heard from my priest many times: God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the Called. Almost all of the people whom God called to serve in extraordinary ways were very imperfect. Moses had been hiding out for years from the Pharaoh because he had killed an Egyptian guard. He was living as a shepherd when God called to him from the burning bush. David was the youngest son of a shepherd and later in life he killed one of his own soldiers so that he could get with the soldier’s wife. Then there was Jonah who tried to run away from the Lord, but he kept getting caught until he finally relented and carried out the work that God had given him. All of these people were flawed in one way or another, and yet they were exactly as God needed them to be in order to carry out his works.

So why would Jesus choose fishermen to be part of his disciples? Jesus knew that there were going to be difficult times ahead for these guys. He warned them that they would be hated because of him. Can you imagine how that would feel? What would you think if your boss approached you at work and mentioned that you are going to be marked for hatred and disparaging treatment due to the feelings that people have for your employer? And yet these men continued to walk beside Jesus. Why? How could they do that?

“And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” ~John 15:21 (NAB-RE)

I believe Jesus chose them because he knew how difficult it was to be a fisherman. Even if you have been doing it for years there are still going to be many days where you don’t catch a single thing. Or you pull up your net and there’s a giant tear in it. Yet you still continue to get in the boat and cast your nets because you know that even if you just pull a handful up, there’s always the hope and faith that the next net will contain more. Perseverence. Determination. Never giving up. Those are the same traits that are required to go out and spread the Gospel. That’s what we must keep in mind when we speak about our faith and claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

So how will you respond? Will you pick up your cross and follow him? Or will you list a dozen excuses about why this just isn’t a good time?