Tag Archives: Gospel

Sunday or Sabbath?

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A couple of years back, I tried to make each Sunday a chance to post on some topic of Faith, and with this posting I will be going back to that effort.

It’s appropriate to start here on a summer Sunday with a two-part theme: 1) When should you go to Church in the first place?, and 2) Why do many drift away as summer comes?

Let’s start with an effort to answer that first question. These days, many churches celebrate their weekly obligation services of the Mass on Saturday evening, then have a full compliment of Sunday morning services, and some even offer a Sunday evening service.

There are some religious organizations, including Seventh-Day Adventists, who claim that Christians must worship on Saturdays, not on Sundays, because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and they believe that at some point through the years the Church arbitrarily changed things to Sundays.

The fact is that Sundays were the day of worship for Christian believers as far back as New Testament times. Many passages of scripture indicate this practice as more desirable, worshiping on ‘The Lord’s Day’, as Sunday was known to them.

As just one of many examples, St. Ignatius of Antioch describes in a letter to the Magnesians written in 110 A.D. as follows:

“Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [the Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death.” 

During the first three centuries, the practice and tradition of consecrating Sunday to the worship of God by the hearing of the Mass and by resting from work first took root, and has remained established ever since, with slight modifications over the years.

Of course, as all know, the obligation to retain a day to honor the Lord comes directly from God’s very Commandments.

In the book of Exodus, we see the terms “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy…the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…in six days the Lord made Heaven and earth…and rested the seventh day.”

The tradition of the Church developed this as the 3rd Commandment, or “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.”

The Church itself began the tradition of a Saturday evening ‘Vigil Mass’ in order for those who simply could not, due to work or other constraints, make a genuine effort to attend Sunday services. These Saturday evening services are not intended for everyday convenience, or to ‘get it out of the way’.

People should still be going to Church on Sundays, and setting that day aside as a day of rest as much as is possible. However, again the Vigil on Saturday evenings is there as an outlet for those who simply cannot make the Sunday services.

In any event, it is clear that we should all be setting aside a time during our busy week to worship the Lord together as a community, and that includes the summer time.

Many people become more spiritual and involved in the Church as Christmas approaches, and then vow to continue this into the new year. They seem to do well in the early months, and are re-inspired by the coming of Easter in the spring.

But as spring rolls into summer, and the joys of living outside and enjoying more recreational activities takes over, many drift away from regular attendance at Church. This is exactly the time to not drift away.

It is when we are most distracted, when we are lured by worldly things away from the Lord and his house, away from one another as a Church community, that we should fight back against this urge.

Summer time is a great time indeed, but it is nothing more than an excuse to say that because the weather is nicer you cannot find one hour to give specifically to the Lord each week.

All year, through all seasons, attending Mass is a wonderfully refreshing chance to spend an hour in God’s house with others directly worshiping Him, receiving Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist, hearing the Word of God preached, and letting God know that He has a place of importance in our long list of activities in our busy lives.

It’s summer time right now, and it’s also Sunday. Get to Church today.

Joseph: A righteous man

He couldn’t have been happier with the way in which his life was finally turning out. A hard-working tradesman who plied his craft with the best of them, he had met a beautiful young girl and fallen in love at first sight.

Sure she was much younger than him, but he was determined to have her in his life. He continued to pursue her gently, and finally got up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage.

She was a very young girl, much younger than he was, yet she was in some ways wise beyond her years. She wasn’t completely sold on the man who was pursuing her affections, but her family was completely taken with him. After all, he was a hard worker who would absolutely be able to provide for their daughter. He was ruggedly handsome and possessed a maturity that told them the man would treat their daughter right.

So the young girl somewhat grudgingly entered into the engagement. The engagement period was going along smoothly until one night the young lady realized that she was pregnant.

By now you have figured out, in all likelihood, that this young woman was named Mary, and her fiancee was named Joseph. She learns of the pregnancy when an angel appears to her and announces to her that the child has been created by God through the Holy Spirit.

Now this creates many problems for the couple. How was anyone supposed to believe Mary when she revealed the news to her family that she was pregnant, and that she was to bear the Son of God from her womb?

Of course, no one would believe such an outlandish story. They would all believe that she had a secret affair going on with one of the young men from the area, or that perhaps she had been violated by a soldier.

Mary got up the courage to tell her story to her family, and almost immediately there was tremendous skepticism and antagonism. Her fiancee Joseph was crushed, though not embarrassed.

As described in the gospel of Matthew (1:19), he was “a righteous man”, and so decided to set their relationship aside in a quiet manner. He would make no accusations against her, and would bow out peacefully. Fact was, he still cared deeply for her.

That night, Joseph was awoken by the appearance of the same angel who had visited Mary. The angel said to him the following:

“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.”

Joseph was a practical man, but this was no dream. It was not the manifestation of some meal that he had eaten that evening working on his digestive tract as he slept. It was not his conscience acting in a dream state due to his continued affections for Mary. He was very much aware that what he had experienced was real, and he was not about to question his God.

Joseph got out of bed, and began to do as the angel of the Lord had commanded. He took Mary into his home as his wife, and would forever after be a father to the Son of God in every way that is meant.

He had no relations with Mary until after she had bore the child, whom they faithfully named Jesus. He taught Jesus practical lessons in carpentry and in life, and Jesus grew up over the next couple of decades in his house.

The story of Joseph is a timeless one of commitment and sacrifice, and of faith. Joseph was under extreme pressure from the people and powers of this world to turn his back on the woman that he loved. He was considered a fool by some, a martyr by others. Yet he was actually neither of these.

What Joseph showed is that he was a man of God, a man who listened to what the Lord said and put that first in his life.We can all take a lesson from this righteous man as we move through life.

Many times we have been and will be called by God to do something, say something, act in a certain way, treat someone in some way. In responding we may be asked to make a sacrifice, or to go out on a limb, to leave our own comfort zone, perhaps even to embarrass ourselves. When that time comes, remember Joseph, the earthly father of our Lord.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain

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Most everyone has heard of Jesus’ unforgettable lessons taught at what has become known as the “Sermon on the Mount“, what I believe to be the greatest single speech or teaching ever given.

On that day, as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave us the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule.

He told us that we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world“, that we should love our enemies, and taught mankind on a wide variety of issues from divorce to money to managing our anger.

But lesser known was his “Sermon on the Plain”, as described in Luke’s Gospel.

After beginning with some blessings similar in many ways to the Beatitudes, Jesus goes on to warn us of our own greed and selfishness:

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Bummer, huh? I mean, this Jesus was some tough guy to please, huh?

We can’t make good money, eat well, have a sense of humor, win friends, and influence people? What does he expect, everyone to sit in a cave naked, eating crickets and praying solemnly for our entire lives?

Not exactly.

What Jesus was warning of was something that has taken root in American society today. A “me-first” culture, sometimes a “me-only” one. He was warning us that focusing on our own ego gratification was a sure way to miss out on a place in Heaven.

Jesus was not saying that it is bad to be rich, but that those who are blessed with wealth need to manage it responsibly, share it willingly, and use it’s benefits well for the betterment of mankind.

He was not saying that it was bad to enjoy good meals, but that we should do nothing to excess, and that we should share any excess with those who have little or none.

Christ was not saying that we should not laugh. On the contrary, a good sense of humor is a blessing. He was saying that we should not laugh at the plights of others, putting down and shutting out those less fortunate in life than ourselves.

Finally, he was not saying that it was bad to wish to be thought well of, but that we should not be so consumed with needing to feed our ego with the approval of others that we neglect to love our neighbors.

If God has blessed you with excess, there are many ways that you can heed Jesus’ warnings. You can donate material wealth to charities. You can volunteer in service to worthy causes. You can put a smile on another’s face. You can help call others to the Lord.

Provide well for your family and yourself. Enjoy the finer things in life when they come to you.

But always remember that health, wealth, happiness, and peace of mind are all gifts from God, and that you are expected to share them with and spread them to others as much as possible.

Choose

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Making a choice is not always an easy thing to do, and when it comes to the most important things in life the choices you make will affect not only you, but those around you. Your friends, family, community.

Sometimes your choices can ultimately affect the entire world. One such decision, perhaps the most important one that any of us will ever make, is one that I have recently been contemplating.

The choice to accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior.

There, I said it. In some ways, it’s not an easy choice to make. Christ Himself said “You will be hated by all because of my name.”

But I will put it to you here that it is the only rational choice that you can make, the only choice that makes any sense, and the only choice that will ultimately get you what we all search for – peace, love, happiness.

When there is a choice to be made, it is usually between at least two, and often many different things. There is nothing different about the choice to welcome Jesus Christ into your life. You can choose to do so, or you can choose evil, or you can choose ambivalence, or you can choose to delay your ultimate choice…but choose we all shall.

In my own life, it has taken far too long to come to this point. What will be your choice?

Evil is one choice. It is seductive. It enters our lives in so many forms, especially in today’s society. The abuse of sex, drugs, alcohol, the internet. The deterioration of our moral fabric in our music, motion pictures, television and even the classic arts. Popular culture has become a cesspool of corruption and deceit, and it is often a wonder that anyone is ever able to make a choice against these evils.

The devil is very real, and is very seductive. He comes to us each in the form of our own weaknesses. He can come in the shape of a woman or man dragging us away from our wives and husbands and families. He can come in the shape of a bottle, luring us into brokenness and drunkenness. He can come in the form of a needle, a pill, a weed, a powder up our noses, distorting our vision and hallucinating our mind.

Evil is not the only bad choice. Almost as bad is the choice of ambivalence. We choose to not believe. Well, at least not all of it. We choose to believe there is a god, but not in God. Not a god who has anything to do with our everyday life. Oh, something or someone started all this: earth, sun, moon, stars, fish, animals, trees, men. Something or someone set it in motion, and I can accept perhaps it was a god.

But how can there be a real, personal God that loves me and cares about me everyday? Wars, death, famine, disasters, evil. How could a loving God allow these things to exist? No, I am not about to give in to that thinking. Those folks who do are just kidding themselves, medicating themselves with religion rather than booze or drugs or sex. You won’t catch me making that crazy choice.

But in taking that attitude, you are indeed making a choice. A choice to not care, to not change, to not open your eyes and heart. But there is an even more depressing choice, one that is very dangerous indeed. One that I myself have made these many years. The choice to put off your decision. To put off making your own choice, and making the right choice, is perhaps the most perilous of all.

Any important decision in life that we consciously choose to put off is one that needs to be made and is not getting made. That choice can be something involving a career decision, to accept a certain job or not. It can involve our education, whether to go back to school or what classes to take. It can involve finance, whether to buy a property or stock. It can involve our personal life, whether to get married or have children.

But in not making a choice we take risk. We risk that the job won’t go to someone else. We risk that our financial opportunity will lessen. We risk that the person will take our indecision to commit as a sign to back out of a relationship. We risk that something may happen to us prior to finally making that decision that will render us incapable of making it.

I cannot safely claim that I will never stumble again in any way. I remain human, and thus I remain a sinner. But in choosing Christ, and in choosing to live now by his Word, those of you who care about me should begin to notice a change in my life, in my own words and actions. I will take care not to turn anyone off, but you should know that you are living with a fundamentally different person than you may be used to from the past.

When I was ever asked in the past about my faith life, I had the stock comic reply that I was “a Christian, and the worst kind – a Catholic!” I choose also to remain in the Catholic Church as I expand and explore my faith. However you may choose to explore yours, I pray that you do so in Christ.

I hope that you will choose to continue with me on this journey through life and revelation. I also pray that each of you reading this will make, or have made, the right choice in your own lives, and I will always be available to help you towards that end however you may need and however best I can.

Once when Jesus was preaching in Jericho, a blind man called out to Him saying “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus asked “What do you want me to do for you?” and the blind man replied, “Master, I want to see.

Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately the man received his sight and followed him on the way.

I asked and have received. I knocked, and it was opened to me. I sought and I have found. I have stumbled and been lifted up.

I was presented with a choice, and have decided to choose correctly and choose to accept the loving gift that Jesus gave me on that cross over two thousand years ago now. That is what I have done. You have only one thing to do yourself – choose.

2006 American of the Year: Billy Graham

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America’s minister and the pastor to the White House for the past fifty years, the Reverend Billy Graham is named as the third recipient of the  “American of the Year” honors.

A true warrior for God, Rev. Graham follows the previous selections of NFL and real-life warrior Pat Tillman in 2004 and culture warrior Bill O’Reilly in 2005.

For the current year honor, Graham was selected over recently deceased former President Gerald Ford and former UN Ambassador John Bolton.

In a year that showed sharp division in American politics and increased division in American society overall, and a continued worldwide increase in violence and movements away from such basic societal standards as self-respect, self-control, principled morality, and consideration for others, Mr. Graham wound down his public life, one that was almost always the model for such standards and behavior.

Mr. Graham was born as Franklin Graham Jr. in November of 1918, four days before the end of World War I, and was raised on a dairy farm in North Carolina. His was the typical life of a young man during the Great Depression, and he passed his time reading on a wide variety of subjects until at the age of 16 he went to see a traveling evangelist at a revival meeting in his hometown of Charlotte.

In 1939, Mr. Graham was ordained in the Southern Baptist Convention. He studied at what is now Trinity College, and graduated in 1943 from Wheaton College in Illinois, where he met and married his wife and lifelong partner Ruth McCue Bell, herself the daughter of a missionary surgeon.

The Graham’s would go on to raise a family of three daughters and two sons. Mr. Graham pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois and ministered to youth and servicemen during and in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

In 1949, Mr. Graham launched his first major “crusade” in Los Angeles, and his fiery oratory style and his perceived integrity and sincerity drew huge crowds.
The crusade, scheduled for a three-week run, was extended to eight weeks, and led to similar crusades extended to twelve weeks in London in 1954 and sixteen weeks at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1957.

In the decades since, Mr. Graham has gone on to preach the Gospel in thousands more public presentations to millions of people around the world, in most all of the major cities and venues on every continent. He has preached the Word on television, and written dozens of books and other works, always preaching the message of peace, love and salvation through acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior.

Mr. Graham met and ministered to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower during the 50’s, and quickly became known as a sort of Pastor to the White House and the nation, going on to be a strong confidante of every President since. He was particularly close to President Nixon, and in his later life has become friends to both the politically polar-opposite Clinton and Bush families.

The famous pollsters, the Gallup organization, described Mr. Graham as the dominant figure in their “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” polls, on which he made 48 overall and has now made 41 consecutive appearances. He has appeared on the covers of and been featured in Time, Newsweek, Life and numerous other publications.

In an April, 2006 article, Newsweek stated “Graham’s largely unifying legacy is worth considering at a time when faith seems ever more divisive.” Like many of us, Mr. Graham struggled through his younger years as he straddled the line between political involvement and spiritual matters, before finally gravitating to become a solely spiritual force.

Now all of this might prompt one to comment that Graham has indeed been an important public ministerial figure, and a great American, but also question what he did in particular in 2006 to warrant selection as the top American for this past year. What Graham has done both this year, as he spoke before many groups which honored him for his lifetime of giving, and in his previous years is attempt to heal us.

America as the world leader, and the world at large, has become extremely divisive. Democrats vs. Republicans, conservatives vs. liberals, young vs. old, defenders of democracy vs. islamofascists. Not only in division, but in violence and war, the news is filled every day with these bleak images.

It seems the only break from the violent is the obscene. Which current young starlet has bared all publicly? Which Hollywood couple is breaking up? Which drunken celebrity has committed a crime, or made a publicly foolish statement? The world seems to have gone insane all at once.

In this time, in this year, the example of calm, reassuring, stable, God-fearing faith that the Reverend Billy Graham has continued to exhibit while battling symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses and debilitations of old age is a lesson for all of us.

He is a true man of God, our own John the Baptist for our times. He genuinely cares about every one of us, that we might come to know and learn the teachings of Jesus Christ and be saved.

For his teaching and preaching during his decades-long example of faith, and for his continued moral and spiritual strength during a difficult time for the world, the Reverend Billy Graham is named as the website American of the Year for 2006. God bless him, his family, his continuing ministry, and us all as a country and world.