Welcome Back To Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time is when the Church celebrates “all aspects” of the life of Christ.  Far from being a “summer break” or time when there are no celebrations, Ordinary Time is really quite the opposite. It can be viewed as an integration of the other seasons. Whereas the individual aspects of Christ’s life are celebrated in the other seasons, Ordinary Time brings them together into a whole.

Far from a summer break or vacation from Church, Ordinary Time is the “meat” of Christ’s entire life: his person and teachings.

God Doesn’t Want You Miserable

Image of Jesus on the crossSometimes Christianity gets a bad reputation as being depressing and stifling. Of course, this is odd when we look at the Scriptures, which show our founder as a fulfilled man who was resurrected from the dead. You don’t get much more joyful than conquering death!

However, Christianity sometimes comes across as simply being about suffering and rules. Granted, Jesus suffered and we can share in that. Also, Christianity definitely has rules.

But, our attitude towards both of those go a long way in determining our general mindset. Sometimes people who are naturally inclined towards depression or anxiety overly focus on the suffering and rules to the exclusion of the other aspects of the Christian Faith.

For example, yes, we are called to share in the suffering of Christ and the world. But, remember the suffering of Christ is a transforming suffering. In other words, our suffering and sharing in the suffering of others has the goal in mind of creating meaning and joy within suffering. Remember, the suffering of Jesus led to our redemption and his resurrection.

So, the point of suffering with Christ isn’t meant to make us miserable. It’s actually meant to make us much happier and closer to God. That, of course, is a joyful thing!

Also, while the rules within the Christian Faith are genuine, they’re actually meant to make our lives better and more meaningful. Our main focus should be the effect of the rules: a more godly life and a closer relationship with God.

Yet, some of us are so “rule oriented” or were raised that way, that all we can focus on is meticulously following a set of rules. This isn’t healthy or what God intends for us. God wants us to follow him and have a genuine relationship with us. The rules help us achieve that relationship. They’re not the end in and of themselves.

Some people simply just need reminded that God doesn’t want them miserable. In fact, God wants us the opposite. He wants us happy and joyful, no matter the circumstances. We can do this because he sent his son who died and rose to free us from the bonds of sin. That is very joyful needs indeed!

Thoughts On Work and Saint Joseph the Worker

Saint Joseph StatueToday is Saint Joseph the Worker, a secondary celebration related to Saint Joseph, whose main feast is on March 19th.

The feast of Saint Joseph the Worker was established to celebrate the Christian understanding of work. The Church has always emphasized the importance of work being about people over profits. In other words, for Christians, work is something more than just doing your part to earn a living (or earn someone else one).

I strongly believe in freedom, including economic freedom. I don’t believe it is the government’s job to tell businesses what to do. Nonetheless, I believe it is time for people to start standing up for our right to have dignity in our work. Most Americans and Westerners hate their jobs. We are unfulfilled, stressed, over-worked, and (based on the expense of the average education) underpaid. In short, work is hardly a calling and more of a burden.

The problem with modern work, as I see it, is materialism. We work extra hours, avoid doing the things we love, lack time for family, and never have time for silent time with God, so that we can earn a little more money to buy things that don’t make us happy. In short, we shorten our lives and destroy our relationships and spirituality to buy things we will never have time to enjoy anyway.

If we weren’t tethered to material goods, we could tell employers that mistreat us to “take a hike” because we wouldn’t need the extra money to finance things that are too big and expensive for us.

I know this is a simple view, but just imagine if we didn’t need so much stuff. Work would probably regain more of its meaning as a spiritually and enriching vocation as opposed to a desperately needed means to an end.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

Spring And The Resurrection

Magnolia blossoms on the grassI have always enjoyed the season of Spring. As I get older, I am less and less of a “winter person,” and by February and March, I’m looking at the 10-day forecast for any sign of spring breaking forth.

Spring is a great time to celebrate the resurrection, which is why Easter is celebrated now. Nature is bursting forth with newness and beauty. The winter cold, sparseness, and death gives way to warmth, abundance, and life.

The resurrection of Jesus is what brings us to this abundance and life. That Easter falls during the spring (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) is perfect symbolism for the renewal brought forth by the resurrection of the Lord.

So, everyone have a great Easter season, and an excellent spring.

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy imageToday is the second Sunday of Easter, which is now officially Divine Mercy Sunday. It is also the Octave of Easter (8 days after Easter Sunday).

The holiday is based on the visions of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun. In her visions, Jesus asked her to paint the vision of his divine mercy being poured forth from his sacred heart. The image is now very famous in Catholic churches and homes.

Devotions related to Divine Mercy ask for Christ’s abundant mercy, trust in his mercy, and then show mercy towards others.

Mercy is a theme in Jesus’ teachings, and in the Beatitudes Jesus reminds us that “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” During this holiday, let’s remember Christ’s abundant mercy towards us, and then show that to others.

Taking Lent Beyond Easter

Jesus carrying the cross by El GrecoI have always enjoyed Lent, even the fasting side of it. It’s much easier to be appreciative of the feasting when we’ve also experienced the fasting. However, we must never forget the main purpose of Lent, which is to become spiritually stronger and a better Christian overall.

So, as Lent winds down, it may be helpful to look at ways you can take your Lenten experience beyond Easter and actually integrate it into your life. While I don’t think the fasting should continue through Easter (Easter is a time of celebration, so celebrate), the spiritual ideals we’ve practiced certainly should. Here are a few ways to integrate your Lenten experience into your everyday spiritual life.

First, write down what you got out of Lent 2013 and what practices worked to make you a better person. I have had many fruitful Lenten experiences and guess what? I don’t even remember the details! So, before Lent is over, keep a log of helpful practices, thoughts, and ideas. Then, periodically throughout the year, go back to your journal. Make sure you continue what has been a blessing to you.

Second, return to fasting when Easter is over. While the Catholic Church requires Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as fast days, there is nothing stopping you from fasting other days of the year (although Sundays and other holy days are always feasts). Fasting is a good practice that we too often forget outside of Lent. Pick a day throughout the week a few other times a year and fast. I try to fast at least once in the summer, winter, and fall (Lent falls in the spring).

Finally, keep it simple. I have always found the simplicity of Lent to be very spiritually satisfying. It forces me to be a little more rugged and sparse. The lives of most people are chaotic and leave little time for rest and contemplation. Whatever your Lenten discipline, your life was likely more simplistic and more focused on your spiritual life. Make an effort to keep this going.

I wish you a blessed rest of Lent and beyond. Whatever you’ve accomplished, I pray you can continue it throughout the rest of the year and be continually serving God and having a blessed spiritual life.

Pope Francis An Example Of Lenten Humility

Popr FrancisWhen Pope Francis emerged onto the balcony at the Vatican, I didn’t know much about him. I have been pretty busy and haven’t had time to personally research every “papabile” cardinal. Immediately after Jorge Mario Bergoglio, I began researching him. What I found was a humble guy, who, in my opinion, is the right person for the job.

Right or wrong, the Church’s reputation throughout the world is pretty negative at the moment. I think many outsiders see the Pope as that “rich white guy” who lets priests do bad things, who tells people to do one thing, while doing something else. Again, I don’t think this is the case, but as we say in psychology, “perception is reality.”

The humility and “down to earth” nature of Pope Francis is just what the Church needs, and quite frankly, it should come as no surprise since he is reallt imitating Christ in the process. I understand the “beauty of holiness” and the sacramental nature of reality. I too am enriched by the giant cathedrals of Europe and the ceremony of the Church. However, I also know that all of this has to lead us back to one person: Jesus. And Jesus reminded us about the importance of simplicity and the danger of attachment to possessions.

When Pope Francis carries his own bags, asks a blessing from the crowd before giving his, and his custom of taking the bus instead of a limo, reminds me of what Jesus would do. It also reminds me of what we are trying to do this Lent.

I have no predictions of this papacy. I am impressed with the humility of Pope Francis and hope that we can all use this as an inspiration for Lent, as we imitate the “servant of the servants of God.”

Habemus Papam – Pope Francis

The Catholic Church has chosen a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina. He has taken the name “Francis.”