Tag Archives: Old Testament

Brothers in Christ

In the Old Testament, the Book of Proverbs 27:17 reads: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

In the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew 18:20 quotes Jesus Christ as teaching: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

We modern men can be funny creatures. There are many who consider themselves to be men of faith, yet find themselves trapped by fear or embarrassment when faced with the challenge of publicly professing that faith, especially among other men.

In a world that is rapidly deteriorating all around us in matters of faith, spirituality, religion, and morality, we no longer have the choice to seek comfort in private prayer. We must come together, publicly, and call this world to order in the name of Jesus Christ.

There are many ways that you can individually participate in this calling. First, of course, you can simply go to Mass. Attending a service at Church on a regular basis establishes a personal and community base. It is only a minimum, but it is a must.

God commanded us all to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”, and we must set that time aside to publicly visit His house in the company of our family, friends, and neighbors.

Next, seek opportunities to expand your public prayer life within your community. Your own church community will likely have such opportunities. That is always a great place to start.

A few years ago, I began to serve my local parish as a Lector, and it has been greatly rewarding. I always feel that I am helping spread his Word by using the gifts that God gave me in this manner. You have gifts to use as well.

There are numerous groups on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites specifically established for men to join together and praise the Lord publicly, drawing strength and encouragement from one another. One has it’s own ‘hashtag’ of #BIC, standing for “Brothers In Christ”, and joins together posts mostly by men supporting the faith.

Finally, continue your private prayer. It is of vital importance as well. If you have never done so, consider learning to pray the rosary. I took up the practice of daily rosary prayer about a month ago. It takes only about 20 minutes to complete, and there are numerous resources in print, online, and even in apps, to teach and guide you.

We are all “Brothers In Christ”, as Matthew again quotes our Lord: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

We need one another to magnify our prayer, and to stand stronger during these days of great challenge. The forces of darkness and despair grow daily. We must emerge from our prayer closets and begin to shine our light in the world, in the name of Jesus Christ.

You are worthy

One of my favorite things to do over the past few years has been serving my local Catholic parish church, Saint Christopher’s, as a lector. I get to utilize the gift of public speaking that was given to me by God in presenting his Word to my community of believers. That is, quite frankly, a humbling honor.

In doing so, not only do I read something out loud, but I also am reading for myself. It is not only an exercise in dramatics or presentation meant to inspire my fellow parishioners and visitors to our church, but also a learning exercise, an educational and inspirational one, for me as an individual.

The topic of the readings at this week’s Sunday Mass services were, as they frequently are, tied together in a theme that is very appropriate for both the time of year, but also one that presents a message of importance for every human being alive today.

The message is that God believes, no matter what your actions, your thoughts, or your current state of belief, disbelief, or practice, that you are worthy of his love.

In the first reading, taken from the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah tells the story of a vision in which he is presented with God sitting on his heavenly throne, and then of angels appearing to him.
His home shakes and fills with smoke, and he trembles as his unworthiness engulfs him: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” thinks Isaiah.

Isaiah feels that he is unworthy of being in the Lord’s presence, unworthy of his love. But one of the seraphim approach and shows him the Lord’s power of forgiveness. The Lord then asks aloud, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah immediately responds, “Here I am, send me!

In the second reading, taken from the New Testament, Saint Paul speaks of the ultimate Truth: that “Christ died for our sins..was buried..was raised on the third day” and then Paul goes on to recite as proof the appearance of Jesus to Cephas, and then the twelve disciples, and then to numerous other believers, many of whom were still alive. The Lord then appeared to James and all the apostles. And then Paul recounts his personal meeting with our Lord.

Last of all..he appeared to me..for I am the least..not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul was lamenting his past in that brief moment. A lamentation that today holds many back from fully embracing their true path. Paul’s story is the ultimate one of good triumphing over evil, of man’s ability, with God’s loving grace, to overcome even his worst sins.

For those who do not know Paul’s story, I will try to paint a quick picture. Born as Saul of Tarsus, a Roman citizen, he was about a decade younger than Christ, and he grew to become a zealous persecutor of the nascent Christian church. He had or helped get early believers imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. He was as vocal and active an anti-Christian as one could possibly become.

One day while traveling along the road to Damascus on a mission to bring some believers to Jerusalem for punishment, Saul was met by the resurrected Jesus, and he underwent a conversion experience that would change both his life and the history of the world. Taking the new name of “Paul” given him by Christ, he became one of the two greatest apostles in the history of early Christianity.

In recognizing the overcoming of his early sins against the church at the completion of this week’s reading, Paul, after his self-admonition of being unfit to be called an apostle, went on to speak confidently of his current state: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.”

There are many out there who may believe that they are too far gone to even seek God’s forgiveness, let alone to expect to receive it. Some may even have publicly denied Jesus, spoke of him in folly, made fun of his followers. They may feel a desire inside, but fear to be shunned as hypocrites, or worse, as idiots by their friends who feel as they have in the past. None of that is important, and none of that has anything to do with ultimate truth.

No one, not the worst sinner, is too far gone from seeking God’s forgiveness. No one is too far gone from embracing fully the Word and the Truth of Jesus Christ. All you need to do is embrace that Truth and begin to commit to a deeper understanding of it, and also to begin to fearlessly go public with your belief. You may lose friendships. You may be scorned and ridiculed by non-believers. But you will be gaining everything important in return.

I myself drifted from my church, drifted from God, and certainly have sinned. But I have always felt pulled back to him. I have never felt abandoned. I have ultimately turned to his good. It’s nothing you can’t do yourself.

On Wednesday we celebrate the occasion of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season known as Lent, a season of repentance that leads us up to the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in his death on the cross for you as an individual. This is a perfect chance at repentance, conversion, sacrifice, and renewal.

Never let anyone, least of all yourself, tell you or in any way make you feel that you are not worthy of God’s love, that you are not worthy to take up the cross of Jesus Christ. You are worthy, you are loved, and you are important to him. You only need to make him important to you. Begin today.

Sunday Sermon: God speaks to you personally

So many of us, believers and non-believers, search in our lives for some direction or path to follow, one that will lead to our best chance for happiness, peace, and love.

We know that nothing is guaranteed, that even the best laid and followed plans can be scuttled by any number of circumstances outside of our control.

But how do we give ourselves that best chance to find what we are all looking for in life?

I would suggest to you that your best chance lies in listening to the voice inside of you that has been there since your youngest moments, that has travelled with you throughout your life, and which will speak to you right up until the moment of your death and beyond.

God created you in His image and likeness. He gave you at least one special gift as well, many of us more than one. To some he has entrusted great intellect. To others great physical beauty. To some he instilled the ability to lead others. For some it is the gift of oratory, or art, or writing, or singing. Analytical abilities, mechanical abilities, technological proficiency.

In bestowing upon you whatever gift it is that He granted, there comes with it the responsibility to use that gift to make the world in which we live a better place for ourselves and our fellow man, to whatever extent we can achieve such a goal.

Even those who have been challenged with disabilities have been given a gift, at the very least a gift of life, a life that touches and changes those around them.

As we grow and set out upon the journey of our lives, we look for inspiration and education to help guide us. Our parents and families have the first, and usually the greatest, opportunity to inspire and educate.

Our teachers in school, our friends and business associates, our priests and pastors take their turns. We gain some amount of inspiration and education from entertainers, politicians, business leaders, writers, athletes and other public figures.

As we move into and through life, we take all of these inputs and sort them out, many times through trial and error, often adjusted by actual real experiences that we have, both positive and negative. At some point we begin to develop skills, experience, and our own sets of habits, traits, beliefs, standards, and morals.

With all of this input from varied people of many age groups and every type of life experience, you would think that almost everyone would turn out ‘good’, or would almost always make the ‘right’ decisions. So why do so many of us, the vast majority of us, make so many poor decisions, choose so many wrong paths, and in the end make our lives and often the lives of our loved ones so much more difficult than need be?

To return to what I mentioned earlier here, I would suggest to you that it’s because we fail to recognize and listen to the voice inside of you that has been there since your youngest moments, that has travelled with you throughout your life, and which will speak to you right up until the moment of your death and beyond.

At every choice that you have ever been faced with, God was there with you and gave you direction. He whispered into your heart, mind, and soul the correct path you should take, the correct action you should take. It doesn’t matter that you are a Catholic, a Protestant, or even a Christian at all. It doesn’t matter whether you, in that moment, even believed that He existed. He spoke to you just the same.

Should I take this money from my mother’s purse or father’s wallet without asking? Should I cheat on this test, tell this lie, fabricate this story? Should I smoke this cigarette, or marijuana joint, pop these pills, snort this drug? Should I sneak out of the house when I’m not supposed to?

Should I have sex with my boyfriend or girlfriend, or worse, some acquaintance or random stranger? Should I spend this money in this way, stay out late for ‘just one more’, sleep in on Sunday instead of going to church?

Every decision of your life, and in particular every major decision that was going to affect your future in a permanent or significant way, every time you were put into a situation of moral and/or legal peril, God was there, whispering to you the correct path or action or word.

And you heard Him. You knew the right thing to do, the right word to say, the right action to take. You knew if you should go forward or walk away. You knew whether you should ‘just say no’, or ‘no thank you’, or place yourself in jeopardy.

You knew, but you didn’t always listen. You decided to ‘just say no’ to God, or to whatever you wrote his voice off to as your conscience, or some leftover guilt trip of your parents, or whatever else you called that ‘little voice’ inside you that was keeping you from your fun.

Sometimes when you didn’t listen, you got away with something. You dodged a bullet, got lucky.

Maybe you sweated out some situation for awhile, but you weren’t caught, or you paid a price but it was one you could handle – that time.

You even knew it, that you had gotten off easy. You promised that it wouldn’t happen again, that you wouldn’t let yourself get into that kind of mess again. How many of us have repeated past mistakes, lessons we not only should have learned, but did indeed learn?

In the Old Testament’s ‘Book of Kings’, Elijah takes shelter in a mountain cave. God speaks to him saying “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”

The Bible goes on to tell how “A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound….”

When he heard this whispering sound, Elijah hid his face in his cloak, and returned to stand at the entrance to the cave. He understood that in this whisper to him was the true voice of the Lord, who may indeed come in a grand cacophonous blast, but who much more often speaks in a hushed tone inside our hearts.

The challenge for us is to be like Elijah, and be open to God’s voice. To sift through all of the loud inputs from social media, from entertainment and political influences, from imperfect family members even though they mean well.

We must be willing to tune most or all of that out, and listen to the voice of God inside of us. He will be there every time, speaking to you personally. Ignore His voice at your own peril, and blame only yourself when you do and things go wrong.

Surrender like Christ

Today is Palm Sunday, celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem to begin the pentultimate week of his life which would end in the most important event in human history.

As Christ willingly surrendered himself for our sake, we should follow his lead. Our inspiration can be found right in the Bible, in Proverbs 16.

It is the Old Testament’s Book of Proverbs chapter 16 where we learn to “entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” This important chapter of God’s own book of wisdom is full of lessons and inspirational sayings that guide us to surrender our lives to the Lord.

We all make plans and set our lives on a course. But no matter how well-meaning or well planned that personal direction might be, you will not find ultimate success without the blessings and guidance of the Lord. You must not only make your plans, but your plans must include yielding to God’s ultimate plan for you.

In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps” says Proverbs 16. “Happy is he who trusts in the Lord.” 

Make your plans, they are necessary. But just as necessary is to both pray on your plans and to include in your prayers to God an acknowledgement that He might have another direction for you. Make your plea that His will be done.

By acknowledging to God that you are at His mercy and will succeed only with His grace and blessings, you humble yourself appropriately and place your ultimate fate in His hands. “All the ways of a man may be pure in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves the spirit.”

Proverbs 16 gives advice for avoiding the influence of negative or evil people who will try to distract you from good in lessons such as “A scoundrel is a furnace of evil, and on his lips there is scorching fire” and “He who winks his eye is plotting trickery; he who compresses his lips has mischief ready.”

The book urges one to speak only truth and to bring positive messages to the lives of others with sayings such as “Pleasing words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and healthful to the body.” And yet we must do more than talk the sweet talk. Like Christ, we must be willing to walk the hard walk and surrender to God’s will for us.

How much better to acquire wisdom than gold!” sparks the book. “To acquire understanding is more desirable than silver.” We want to succeed, and we often measure that success by money, goods, and power. This is not how God sees, or will measure, your success.

Like Jesus Christ, as you plan and train and work towards your worldly goals, remember that you need to ask for God’s help and blessing. You need to be willing and open to His possibly having a different direction in mind for you.

And you need, as Proverbs 16 and other books of the Bible can teach you when read regularly and reverently, to recognize that worldly success is not your ultimate or most important goal.

NOTE: this entry is the continuation of the regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series which can be found here most Sundays, all entries for which you can view by clicking on the below label from the www.mattveasey.com website

Time, talent, and treasure

This morning for the first time I processed up the main aisle and on to the altar, and then stepped up to the lectern in front of my fellow parishioners at the 7:30am Mass at St. Christopher’s Church in Somerton to present the first reading from the Old Testament.

The selection was from the 1st book of Samuel, one of the ‘Historical Books’, and told the story of how a barren woman named Hannah prayed to God for a son and promised that if the Lord so gifted her she would turn the child over to the priesthood. God granted her desire, and she kept to her promise after weaning Samuel as a small child.

God had given Hannah a gift, and Hannah responded in kind by sharing her gift with the Lord. It was this very gifting process that led me to the lectern on Sunday morning through a ‘Stewardship’ program beginning to spread through the Catholic church and other Christian denominations as well.

Stewardship is the process of realizing that all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. This makes us ‘stewards’ of these gifts in that we manage them on behalf of the Lord during our time here on earth.

In managing these gifts we are not only encouraged but are expected to share them with the body of the Church. In evaluating exactly how each of us can best share our gifts we should examine in our own lives the opportunities that we all have to give of our time, our talents, and our treasure.

The first opportunity, to give of our time, can take on many forms. The very least amount of time that we should be giving is that 1 hour each week to attend Mass. The normal 7-day week consists of 168 hours. God only asks that you come to His house for one of those. The very least you can do is give Him that hour and keep holy the Sabbath.

Of course what we are really talking about in Stewardship is giving more than the minimum. So more than the minimum of your time might involve some other activity on behalf of the Church. You could volunteer to help clean the church building prior to Christmas or Easter. Every parish or church community has volunteer opportunities ranging from smaller commitments to larger ones.

Another way to increase your Stewardship would be to share your talent. For some that might be a physical gift. Perhaps you are good with carpentry or plumbing and could volunteer to help your church in those areas. I am a police officer and a teacher with a great deal of public speaking experience, thus my decision to become involved in sharing that talent as a lector.

Not everyone is cut out to be a lector. Many people have a fear of speaking in front of large crowds, or just simply are not very good readers, or both. Neither of those has ever been a problem for me. But where tools are concerned, I’m lucky that I can even screw in a light bulb. Every one of us has some type of talent or career experience that we can share. Again, your individual church will have opportunities available for you to help.

Finally, you can share your treasure. This means exactly what it sounds like it means – money. You can do this through direct giving, increasing even slightly the amount that you place in a church envelope or collection, for instance. It could also mean bequething property or valuables to the church on your passing.

There are many skeptics when it comes to giving money or valuables to what they perceive to be an entity as large as the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that every individual parish runs largely on it’s own resources. Your directed gift or increased contributions will go directly to help the church that services your very own communities spiritual needs.

You don’t have to do anything. You can just keep going along the way that you are right now. Many Catholics and other Christians, and members of other faith systems, have drifted away from church almost entirely. Many Christians joke of becoming ‘Chreasters’, where they attend services only on Christmas and Easter. Others say things flippantly such as “I’m good with God, me and Him talk directly to one another.”

Jesus turned to Peter and told him that he would be the rock upon which “I will build my church, which will overcome all the evil forces arrayed against it.” Jesus also taught that “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” In these specific but in many other example of his teachings and his living he showed the importance of gathering as a church community.

Personally, I have decided to begin with the small steps of volunteering with my church Lector Society to do the readings at Mass. My wife and I have decided to slightly increase our Sunday collection offerings. I am going to begin to look for other opportunities, and we will continue to build our own stewardship role with our church over time.

God calls each of us to the role of Stewardship, the sharing of those gifts which He has given to us in this life. It is up to each one of us to more closely examine our lives and our abilities, to get in touch with our own church, and to find an opportunity to present and share those gifts of time, talent, and treasure in honor of the Lord.

NOTE: This is the final ‘Sunday Sermon’ entry of 2009, a regular series of which all previous entries can be read by clicking on to the label below this posting at http://www.mattveasey.com