Spiritual Growth

Don't Discount God During Advent!

Though Advent is happening on the liturgical calendar, the rest of the world is already celebrating Christmas with decorations in every shop window and every ad on television. There is no event on the American calendar that is so anticipated, so planned for, as that of Christmas. Media production companies, marketing firms, mall administrators, food caterers, toy manufacturers, and airlines were all thinking about and preparing for December 25th long before most of us. In truth, they were preparing, not so much for December 25th as for someone...namely, you. You were the object of their marketing meetings, their advertising campaigns, their flight scheduling, and their menus. All this preparation on your behalf should leave you with quite a special feeling, right?

Unfortunately, many people feel let down after the holidays. Annually, Christmas mysteriously raises our expectations, hopes and desires. It's as if there has been placed in our hearts a longing, a thirst, and a hunger for something that we can't quite put our finger on.

Wishing You A Blessed Easter!

 

Has the Resurrection Changed Your Life?

What a shock for the disciples to arrive at the tomb and behold the empty linen in which the body of Christ had been wrapped (John 20:1-9). John tells us that they did not understand the Scripture, that Christ must rise again. These men, so shaken by the past few days, were now faced with something even more bewildering than the death of their leader by crucifixion. What could an empty tomb possibly mean?

The entire story of salvation history turns on this singular, most powerful event. Without it, everything that Jesus had said and done would have been forgotten or seriously questioned. No doubt the enormity of the resurrection caused his followers to rethink, "just what did he say?" Throughout His many discourses, Jesus retold Israel's history, but cast himself as the last Adam, the new Moses who gives the new law of liberty, the son of David, the suffering Messiah and the new Temple that would be destroyed only to be raised in three days.

The resurrection is proof that Jesus is who he said he was. When all the scripture references and prophecies about himself were pointed out to the disciples, they finally saw Jesus as the Messiah and understood what type of Messiah he was: the suffering servant sacrificed for the atonement of sin. It all fell into place for them. They knew the story of their people and how God had lead the nation of Israel, so when it was revealed to them that Jesus provided a New Covenant for them in His blood, they were able to preach the surety of the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. It became clear to the disciples that the mission of the Messiah was to lead all people out of sin and bondage into righteousness and freedom.

The resurrection of Christ should act as an anchor for our souls in times of doubt and in stormy situations. After the resurrection Jesus met up with some of his followers who had hoped in him but were greatly discouraged about his death. They didn't recognize him until he revealed himself in the breaking of the bread. Once his followers understood that he was alive and available, their entire life turned around. Think about it, a handful of people who knew that Jesus rose from the dead went on to turn the world upside down.

Every time we receive communion we are reminded that Jesus is not dead but alive. Our lives are not in vain because we are in Christ and he gives our lives meaning both here on earth and in heaven. We were crucified with Christ, buried with him. and we rose from the dead with him. We can celebrate the resurrection of Christ knowing that death has been swallowed up in Christ's victory. If we are "in Christ" then his victory is our victory. St. Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Reflect on the text below. How might the resurrection of Christ change the way you live your daily life?

"I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

Anticipation: Advent Anticipates Something Bigger Than Gifts!

 

Anticipation is a wonderful thing. From the time we were children, all the way through adulthood we daydream about wonderful things to come. A birthday party, graduation, getting married or our first job: they all point to brighter days ahead.

During Jesus' day everyone was in eager anticipation of the coming Messiah. Life was difficult under Roman occupation, and there was much buzz about what the Messiah would do to liberate God's people when he arrived. One of the road signs that pointed to the coming Messiah would be the arrival of Elijah the prophet, the one who would usher in the anointed one. Elijah was one of Israel's great prophets who challenged the prophets of Baal and did many other great works. While Elijah was a great prophet, it was the prophet who came after Elijah, Elisha, who received a double anointing and went on to do even greater works. Elisha raised the dead and multiplied loaves to feed a multitude.

Endurance In Tough Times!

Endurance Jeff CavinsChrist never promised that life would be a bowl of cherries when we decided to follow him. In fact Jesus warned that what they did to Him might very well happen to us. The secret to living a holy life is endurance to the end and a confidence that He will give us what we need in the time of trial.

We are not living in a culture that is accustomed to endurance. We have been trained to expect results today rather than exercise patience in hopes of attaining prized fruit. Endurance or tenacity during hard times is one of the keys to living a happy life and is one of the hallmarks of the great saints who have gone before us.

In the Old Testament, King David was a man who demonstrated endurance as the jealous King Saul hunted him down. When you read many of the Psalms you will witness how David's confidence in God was tested and how he repeatedly chose the road of enduring the situation while at the same time completely relying on God.

It comes as no surprise that many of the men in King David's army demonstrated heroic virtue. David took a moment to highlight three of these mighty men in 2 Samuel 23:8-12. Let's take a look at these three men and think about our own lives and what we face on a daily basis. Ask yourself if you are enduring with a trusting attitude in the Lord?

The first was Adino, the chief of the three mighty men. Adino wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he slew at one time. While this statement only makes up one verse in the Bible, think between the lines about all that Adino must have endured. Adino represents tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds as he face one struggle after another. What was Adino's attitude when he realized that after defeating twenty-three men there were still many more to overcome? Did Adino think about quitting after one hundred and sixty nine men? Was he a bit discouraged at four hundred and sixteen? The important number that day for Adino was eight hundred, that was what endurance required. What would have happened if he had given up at seven hundred and ninety eight?

What about those days in your life where there is one problem after another? Do you feel like giving up and quitting? With the help of the Lord we can endure till the end.

The second of David's mighty men was Eleazar, the son of Dodo. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew. He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand cleaved to the sward; and the Lord wrought a great victory that day; and the men returned after him only to strip the slain. Eleazar represents tenacity in the face of overwhelming fatigue. He was abandoned by all others who were previously with him, but kept fighting to the point where the muscles in his hand actually clung to the sword. Notice that after the victory was won, the men returned.

Have you ever felt like Eleazar? Did friends or even a spouse abandoned the battle leaving you alone to fight for your cause or your children? Perhaps when the victory was won your friends came back to share in the triumph. Remember that when you are tired and feel like giving up you can endure till the end with the help of the Lord.

The third of David's mighty men was Shammah. Shammah represents tenacity in the face of a seemingly insignificant assignment. The Philistines had gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils; and the men [friends] fled from the Philistines. But Shammah took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it, and slew the Philistines; and the Lord wrought a great victory. Think about it for a moment, Shammah defended a plot of lentils, better known as beans. Wouldn't you think that if David is going to list mighty men he would have left out someone who merely defended a bean field? What makes the difference is that this bean field belongs to the Lord.

Have you ever felt that your assignment from God was relatively insignificant? Most of us would gravitate toward the flashy, important and newsworthy assignments, but often times the battle is won when everyday people are faithful in what seems to be small things. What is my bean field that the Lord has given me to defend? I have a wonderful wife and three beautiful girls that make up my bean field. The rest of the world may not consider them an important assignment, but they are everything to me because they are a gift from the Lord. Yes, my family is my bean field and I will endure anything to ensure that this gift from God is protected. I consider my girls my true beanie babies.

Next time you feel like quitting, remember the words of St. Luke, 'by your endurance you will gain your lives.' By enduring with patience we will not only experience the joy of the Lord today but we will inherit heaven which is joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Putting the Word into practice:

1. What is your bean field? What seemingly insignificant task in your life will require endurance till the end? Pray and ask the Lord to help you see this task from His perspective.

2. Next time you feel fatigued in the midst of a trial, take some time to go to church and sit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If you can't get to a local church then say a decade of the rosary and ask Our Lady to help you endure. She was a woman of incredible endurance.