5 Ways to Do Holy Thursday for Shut Ins and Shut Outs

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Go to mass tonight if you can. You will be blessed.

If you’re sick or you have to work or for some other reason you cannot go, try to take a moment to think on Jesus. You may be so busy or in such a problem that finding time for worship or contemplation of any sort is difficult. On the other hand, you may be flat on your back with nothing but time, dripping slowly by.

Here are 5 ways you can do Holy Thursday if you are shut in from illness or shut out because of other imperatives.

1. Pray. 

For those with time, pray the Rosary. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. If you are sick, offer up your pains for conversions.

If you are pushing through a day with no rest stops, pray the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Or, pray a Hail Mary.

Or, just stop for a moment and think about Gethsemane and say “Thank you Jesus.”

If you are in your own, personal, Gethsemane today, ponder what He faced there and remember that God understands what you are going through. He knows with the knowing of having been there Himself.

2. Read the Bible. Read the transfiguration (Mark, chapter 9) or the Last Supper (Mark 14) or the story of Gethsemane (Mark 14.) Read Psalm 22.

Better yet, read them all.

When you read, ponder for a moment the power of this story. I could write many thousands of words discussing these Scripture readings and never touch their full meaning. This is the promise of our redemption, the New Covenant which fulfills that of the Old Testament, and the all-too-human suffering of abandonment and The Alone.

Read it and pray over it. Put yourself there, in the disciples’ sandals, with Jesus as He prayed to let this cup pass from Him. Let God show you the understanding of it that you need for today.

3. Watch something edifying on tv. So much of what we see in the media at this time of year is a thinly-disguised attack on the faith through bogus scholarship presented as an “investigation” into the “real Jesus” or “what really happened.”

The simple fact is that these are deconstructions of Scripture based on little more than the fantasies of the “scholars” who put them forward. Most of the time, if you backcheck these “experts” you will find that they are people with an agenda, usually having to do with their dislike of the Church’s stand on things such as gay marriage and abortion.

They are attacking Christianity because Christianity poses a barrier to the universal acceptance of their viewpoints. However, they are not doing this in a forthright and honest way. They are using phony “scholarship” and an anti-Christian media to unfairly and inaccurately bash Christianity in hopes of weakening its ability to oppose them in the marketplace of ideas.

I had all but given up on tv.

Then, I found some edifying videos on Amazon Prime; lives of the saints, Church history, inspiring stories of faithful Christian witness. I suggest you seek them out and watch them. I’ve looked for similar things on Netflix and couldn’t find them. If you find good ones in other venues, please share them here.

4. Sing or play music. I’ve been under the weather for the past three weeks, and I haven’t felt up to playing my piano. That’s a huge deprivation for me. I’m going to change that today, at least for a while, and tap out a hymn or two. I have lots of Christian music of all genres on my iPhone. I play that and sing along in my rusty voice.

Music is worship with wings, especially, playing the piano. If you pick the guitar or bow the fiddle or pound the ivories, make a joyful noise to the Lord. If you don’t play an instrument, or don’t have access to one, sing a hymn, and if all else fails, just listen to Christian music for a while in your car or at your house.

5. Talk about Jesus with your Christian friends. I don’t mean making a speech or trying to convert someone. I mean just talking about the events of this week 2,000 years ago with a fellow Christian.

Don’t try to be profound. Just fellowship by talking about Our Lord with another Christian.

I know there are many other ways to “do” Holy Thursday if you can’t get to mass. I also know that even if you do go to mass, these are also important things to do.

A Christian can never engage in too much prayer, Scripture, and private worship in the guise of watching good Christian entertainment, making a joyful noise unto the Lord and talking about Him with other people who love Him.

Build yourself up in Christ today, step by step, brick by brick.

This is Holy Thursday. No matter your circumstance, you can find a moment and a means to love Him today. It will be your blessing if you do.

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Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law and Holy Week

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Indiana’s governor is at the center of a firestorm because he signed a religious freedom law.

I am aware that any Catholic blogger, especially a Catholic blogger who writes about politics, should be all over this.

But I’m not going to do it. Not this week.

This is Holy Week, and I need the time with Christ. I think a lot of other people do, too. Sad to say, this issue, and its many ramifications, is not going to go away. Religious freedom is under attack in this country.

I could easily write a strong post about this, as well as the outrageous attempt at intrusion into Church governance that is occurring in San Francisco.

However, this is Holy Week.

I write this blog for one reason: To contribute to the work of equipping Christians to stand for Christ at the intersection of public life and faith. However, I understand something that I’ve seen a lot of Christian culture warriors forget: This is not about changing the culture to our viewpoint. It is about faithfulness to Christ.

We must take time to be with Jesus. That means, among other things, deep prayer on a daily basis, reading the Scriptures every day, and mass as often as you can get there. It also means relaxing a bit and trusting Him.

I’ll say this again: This is Holy Week.

This is the week when God showed all the world for all time the depth, width and breadth of His love for us.

We are in a serious struggle to retain religious freedom in this country. The reason we are in this struggle is not because we have failed at power politics — although by every objective criteria, we have failed.

We are in the situation of fighting for religious freedom in a culture that engages in Christian bashing because we have failed in our mission to be the light. While we were blasting away at our enemies with the full-tilt ugliness of power politics, we forgot that our first call is to bring people to Christ.

Redemption is not won at the ballot box. Redemption was won once and for all by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross.

This is Holy Week, when each of us should be thinking on that Cross. We should consider, for at least one week, the miracle of our salvation. We need to ponder and appreciate the unfathomable mercy of a God who poured out His life’s blood in an agony of public shame, humiliation and torture that we might be washed clean by that blood and given eternal life.

It is no accident that this final Passover on Calvary took place at the time of year when the first Passover is celebrated. In Egypt, the Israelites slaughtered a perfect lamb and then marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb so that the angel of death might pass them by. Scripture tells us that it was “the Lord’s Passover.”

When Jesus approached John the Baptist at the Jordan, John announced Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was a clear prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. It was also a public testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus is our Passover from death to life. He is the perfect lamb whose blood redeems all humanity with one perfect atoning sacrifice. If we are marked with His blood, the angel of death will pass us by.

Jesus died that we might have eternal life. That is how much He loves us. It demonstrates as nothing else can the depth of His mercy towards us.

This is Holy Week. We need to think on these things, to take time apart from the yelling and carrying on of political fighting and pray for guidance and strength in how we proceed in the days ahead. Because we are not called to leadership in the broader world. We can called to followership in the Kingdom of God.

We need to go to the cross and kneel there in the dirt and blood of our own sinfulness and be converted to an ever deepening life of following Him, wherever that leads, whatever it costs.

We are going to be called to much more than ballot box Christianity. We have a harder task before us than political activism. We must convert the culture for Christ, and we must do it one person at a time.

This is Holy Week.

Take time to worship, pray, meditate and recommit to the fight ahead. Consider the viciousness of the attacks the Governor of Indiana is suffering and understand who is behind them. You are not part of that dark army. Turn your back on replying with equal viciousness.

Go to the cross and fit yourself for this battle by believing that this Jesus who is dying there is Lord of all creation. Understand that even though He is God, the God, He will not force us to follow Him. We, like Mary when the Angel Gabriel stood before her, must give our fiat to His grace and His dominion over our lives.

Give Him your will. Decide to do what He wants from now on instead of following your own understanding. Do the holy thing, even when it’s not the smart thing as the world reckons smartness. Enlist in the Lord’s army for real.

We need to be far more holy than any of us have been up to now. We need to become true disciples.

We can only do that if we follow Him without question. Trust and obey, the old hymns says. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey.

Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Draw near to God this week. Therein is our strength and our power. We will not win this fight if we battle for our own selves and our goals. Forty years of political fighting that has left us with dust and ashes is proof of that.

We will only succeed in our call to convert the culture if we yield up ourselves and become part of that great army of the cross. Our message is salvation paid for by the incomprehensible price of the death of God.

That is our faith. It is who we are. It is who we must be if we are to be pleasing to Him. Before we convert the culture, we must first be converted ourselves.

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Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Popularity was Going Viral

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Denise Krebs https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Denise Krebs https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/

The Skit Guys explain Palm Sunday.

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Was Lazarus a Zombie?

Photo Source: Flicker Creative Commons by Sharon Mellerus https://www.flickr.com/photos/clairity/

Photo Source: Flicker Creative Commons by Sharon Mellerus https://www.flickr.com/photos/clairity/

The Skit Guys explain Jesus raising Lazarus.

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From Hitler to the BTK Killer, How Do You Forgive a Monster?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Webster https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tony Webster https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom’s story was pivotal in my growth as a Christian.

My conversion to Christ happened when I was alone, driving my car. No other person, no church or clergy, participated in it. It was literally Jesus, reaching out to me and filing me with His love.

I knew that what I had experienced was real. I knew that I had encountered Another, and that this Being bore no resemblance to the poisoned descriptions of Him that had been used as a club against me so many times in my life.

This was a Being of ecstatic love and joy.

I was changed by the experience, changed further by the on-going relationship with this Being, who I later came to understand was the Holy Spirit. However, even though this direct encounter and relationship with the Divine gave me an understanding of His nature, I had no parallel understanding of Christianity itself.

I did not hate Christianity with the frothing at the mouth propagandized carry-on of today’s Christian bashers. But I had experienced cruelty and dishonesty at the hands of Christians. I had also drunk deeply at the cultural well of Christianity deconstruction. I honestly believed many of the lies I had been told about Christian history.

One of my first encounters with positive Christian witness was when I picked up a book called “The Hiding Place” at a used book sale. I don’t know why I paid the fifteen cents to buy that book. I only know that it was the first time I’d read or heard anything about Christians who had stood against the evils of the Nazis based on their faith in Christ.

Every bit of information on the subject of Christianity and the Nazis that I had seen, read or heard up until that time had been a version of the many Christian bashing tropes that are circulated today. Nobody told me that Christians had worked against the Nazis to their great personal peril and had been themselves been persecuted and murdered for their defiance of the evils of that time.

Corrie Ten Boom was a saint of World War II and the years after. She was an unmarried watchmaker’s daughter and a highly skilled watchmaker herself when the Nazis invaded Holland. She was a woman in her fifties who lived a quiet life with her family, in the home where she had grown up.

She was also a devoted follower of Jesus Christ in a family of devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid many Jews from the Nazis. They were betrayed by a man they had helped and sent to the concentration camps themselves. Corrie’s father, brother and beloved sister died at the hands of the Nazis.

Her sister Betsy was Corey Ten Boom’s best friend, companion and solace in the nightmare of the camps. After the war, Corey encountered the guard who beat Betsy and whose cruelty probably contributed to her death.

This past week has given me the opportunity to reflect on Corrie’s life. I originally intended to pray for the grace of forgiveness during Lent. But other things got in the way. Then last week I got clipped by some sort of flu-like illness. This bug has forced solitude on me. It has freed me to do what I should have been doing all along.

I have prayed deeply about issues of forgiveness in my own life. I’ve also watched more television this past week than I have in the entire year before it. Among other things, I watched a documentary about a man whose family was murdered by the BTK killer in Wichita Kansas. I also watched a documentary about Corrie Ten Boom.

The difference in how these two people responded to the horrific things that had been done to them was stark. I understand the man’s reaction. I’m not in any way condemning or criticizing him. I see a lot of myself in him.

He was a young person with a casual faith. He did not have the underpinning of years of walking with the Lord that Corrie had when tragedy overtook her. He was unable to look at the savage murder of the people he loved from an eternal perspective.

He did not have the sustaining relationship with God that upheld and sustained her even when she was, as she put it, in the pit. He was much like I was when bad things happened to me early in my life.

His life was savaged by the murder of his family. Hers was magnified. Corrie Ten Boom survived the camps and went on to become a great international speaker and evangelist for Christ.

She wrote books and traveled the globe, speaking to people everywhere about the power of forgiveness. “There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still,” she told people, and they believed her because she had been in the deepest pit of human devising.

The young man whose family was murdered spent time in prison. He fathered a son he did not raise and has spent his days trying to paste the shattered pieces of himself back together again.

The difference between these two people is faith and the grace of God. It is also the grace of forgiveness.

God used Corrie Ten Boom, but He did not give her an easy life. Not only did she endure personal suffering in the concentration camps, she lost the people she loved there. As if that wasn’t enough, God sent the man who had beaten her sister to her to ask for forgiveness.

This forgiveness was the decisive cleansing of Corrie Ten Boom. It was the surrender she had to make in order to be useful to Him and His purposes. If you pray to become a saint, pray carefully. God asks all of you.

This video is Corrie’s account of her post war encounter with the concentration camp guard who had tortured her sister. It describes the healing power of the Cross, which gives peace that passes all understanding.

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America and Its Half Million Homeless Ghosts

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Foxes have dens, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus Christ

Sprinklergate, the story that the Cathedral of St Mary in San Francisco was using its sprinkler system to clear the cathedral steps of homeless people, is a symptom of a big-time problem.

That problem is that American cities are haunted by over a half million ghosts. These ghosts sleep on park benches, sidewalks and in shelters. They panhandle and go through dumpsters, searching for clothing, food, money, drugs.

These are not silent ghosts. They accost us as we walk to work, they wave signs begging for cash as we drive down the road. They take over the public libraries and, as St Mary’s has discovered, can block entrances to buildings with their vacant-eyed vigils.

The ghosts haunting American cities are the homeless. They are not in any way homogenous. Some of them are temporary down and outs. Others are mentally ill. Many are drug addicts and alcoholics. Others are panhandlers posing as homeless while they ply their trade.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Homelessness is the opposite of the American dream. It is the opposite of what, until a few decades ago, was the American self-image. I am old enough to remember a time when America did not have homeless people lying on its park benches, snoring in its libraries and blocking the entrances to its churches.

I was born in that era between the Great Depression with its hobos and today with our ubiquitous and ignored homeless.

America’s basic response to homelessness among so many of its citizens, including many children, has been to ignore them. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issues a glossy report on the homeless every year. This report differentiates between types of homelessness. There are the homeless who stay with relatives, and are not, to my way of thinking, truly homeless at all.

Then there are those who sleep in shelters or whatnot. Finally, we get to the homeless that inspire us to such conflicting feelings of pity, indifference and annoyance, those who do not have shelter at all.

In the meantime, while we ignore the homeless, and refuse to even take a look at the government policies and social changes that made them homeless, we shift the burden for dealing with them onto whoever the homeless themselves chose to impose themselves upon.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Businesses, public buildings of all sorts, churches and other facilities can easily find themselves unable to perform their intended functions because of the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks at their entrance or sitting inside their buildings. Mothers won’t bring the kiddos to the library if the homeless take it over. Guests won’t check into hotels whose entrances are blocked or whose lobbies are filled with homeless people. Churches can’t hold services if the worshippers stay away rather than step over the homeless, sitting on the steps.

We ignore the homeless because we feel helpless to do anything decisive for them. We ignore them because we don’t truly understand what policies and practices of political and social corruption made them homeless in the first place. We ignore the homeless because they overwhelm us and baffle us and scare us.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Worse, we ignore them because if we acknowledged that many of our political and social ideas on both sides of the political spectrum have created this problem and allowed it to grow, it would require us to re-evaluate many of our simplistic viewpoints. We ignore the homeless because not ignoring the homeless would require us to change.

So, we dump them.

We dump them on the businesses and operators of public buildings. We dump the problem on the administrators of these businesses, public buildings and churches. Then, when they take any action to dislodge the homeless from camping out on their property and blocking access and use by those for whom it was intended, we excoriate these administrators for their heartlessness.

This public venting of moral outrage has nothing to do with compassion. It is just us, being our hypocritical selves about a problem we will not do anything to solve. We will not take a homeless person home and house them in our spare bedroom. We will not let them sleep on our porch. We will not change our politics to fit the realities of real life.

We will ignore them and what brung them.

They are not people to us. They are ghosts of what once was people like us. Somebody birthed them, taught them to write those signs they hoist and how to read the hours of operation on the signs in front of public buildings.

They were once part of the larger society.

But now they are ghosts.

And we ignore them.

And we denounce those on whom we dump them for being overwhelmed by them.

And we will not change.

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Go Look in the Mirror. That is the Only God You’ll Ever See.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Decades ago, not long after my conversion, I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine.

This friend was from the time when just about all of my friends — including me — evinced a militant disregard for things Christian.

I didn’t know it at first, but that conversion to Christ was going to change everything in my life, including my relationship with people who had been as close to me as family. One by one and despite everything I could do to avoid it, I would lose them all. Worse, the same friends that I loved, truly loved, would become my worst enemies. They would do everything they could to destroy me.

This particular friend didn’t do that. But the friendship, the easy, warm trust between us, was gone almost as soon as I began to follow Christ. I tried my best to keep my new faith low key. I did everything I could to continue to blend in with my old crowd.

But … you’ve changed, this friend said one day.

It was an accusation, and I cringed inside, not understanding this “change” that he saw, even when I was doing my best to hide it. I did not realize in that moment that he had just unwittingly given me the greatest compliment he could.

He saw Christ in me. Despite everything I could do to pretend that nothing had happened and hang onto all my old friendships, I was changed. And this man saw it.

That comment began the slow unraveling of my old life as an unbeliever. I do not mean that it began my conversion. That had already happened. It was the start of the end of previous relationships with people who lived in the world of unbelief.

I fought it. I wanted to keep these people as friends. I wanted to hold onto the good times we’d shared.

But … you’ve changed, he said. And it was true.

This change began to resound in all these relationships with my old crowd. I never preached to them. I didn’t even talk about Christ to them. But I had changed on a fundamental level, and they were like ring wraiths sniffing me out.

This particular friend was the only one to address the change directly and then to lay into me at the root of that change. He knew, without my telling him, that I was now a Christian. And he began a program of reconversion.

Once, in one of our many arguments, he spat out a couple of sentences that I will never forget.

Go look in the mirror, he said. That is the only God you will ever see.

That comment was the apex of his arguing, and the end of our togetherness as people. It wasn’t the comment itself  that did it. It was the unbridgeable gap between us.

We never formally stopped being friends, but we did stop spending time with one another. It was too fraught, too uncomfortable. We had the memory of a friendship, nothing more.

He died of a heart attack a few years later. There were jokes about his vehement unbelief in the many eulogies at his memorial service. This was a man who understood friendship. The memorial service was a crowded event, the building filled to overflowing.

I walked out, gripping my husband’s hand, hoping that in those last extremities my old friend had finally turned to God.

Did he go to hell? 

I said it aloud when we got back to the car. Was he dead, really, eternally dead and gone to hell? My passionate, crazy friend — had he doomed himself to eternal death?

My husband was silent for a moment. Then, he reached out and squeezed my hand.

Probably, he said.

I changed again after that. My friend’s death shook me out of my somnambulance. I realized that being quiet about Jesus was the cruelest thing I could do to the people around me. I called quite a number of my old friends and told them directly that I did not want them to go to hell. I pleaded with them to change.

One of them changed, began following Christ and follows Him to this day. Otherwise, those calls had no effect.

You just don’t worry about me, one of them said, summing up the reaction from all of the rest.

A few years later, someone I knew and had crossed swords with was dying of cancer. This person and I barely spoke and when we did, it was barbed.

I picked up the phone and called him. Are you right with God? I asked him.

My friend’s death has taught me that there is never a wrong time to try to tell someone about Jesus, and there is never a right time to let another person slide into eternal death while you stand politely by and say nothing.

I read a headline before I began writing this post saying that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith in Christ in the last year. I didn’t read the story, but I would assume that it was based on statistics from a survey of some sort.

There are a lot of reasons for the rising apostasy, but I think that the heresy of salvation through politics is one of the primary factors.

Many Christians have become besotted with a political Christianity where voting right and joining the correct political party has replaced following Christ. They have removed Jesus from Lordship of their lives and replaced him with an angry and unthinking devotion to their political party.

The Holy Spirit will not honor this kind of fallen Christianity. This Christless Christianity without a cross will not produce the fruit of the Kingdom because it is not of the Kingdom.

Go look in the mirror. That is the only God you will ever see. 

Seven point five million Americans evidently decided to turn their backs on eternal life and plunge themselves into eternal death while we were barking at one another over whether or not the priest wears a stole when he hears confessions and is the Church too “feminized” and which political party is the right one for Christians.

Let me tell you something. If Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life, it does not matter which political party you are in or whether or not the mass or church service you attend is sufficiently to your liking.

It does not matter because wherever you are, you will do His will. If people aren’t looking at you accusingly and saying You’ve changed, then something is wrong with your relationship with Christ.

If you fit comfortably in this world, then you are not going to fit comfortably in heaven. If you sit idly by and watch people trot themselves off to eternal hell and do nothing, say nothing to stop them, then you are the most cruel of people.

Let me turn my friend’s comment around. When you look in the mirror, do you see your God?

Sin is one thing. We all sin. This is why we have confession. But if you are one of those many people who are trying to cut your faith to fit your politics, if you are trying to shear the teachings of Christ down to slip them nicely into the folder where you keep your political handouts, then you are, no matter how often you go to Church or how much you proclaim yourself a Christian, in rebellion against God.

If you do not accept the Lordship of Christ in all matters, then you are not following Christ. If you do accept the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter where you are or what people you associate with, you will be His witness in that place.

Bearing witness to the Gospel with our lives is the universal Christian vocation.

But it doesn’t end there.

We are also called to bear witness to Christ with our words.

Ask yourself this: Have people abandoned the Church because of you? Have you driven them away with your peculiar and particular insistence on a vengeful reliance on your version of what a Christian should be? Has your unbending self-righteousness made them feel that the Church is the last place on earth they would go for love and forgiveness?

Or …

Have people come to Christ because of you? Have they felt safe to tell you of their failings, to share their doubts, to trust you with their darkest secrets? Have they experienced the love of Christ in you and begun to follow Him because you allowed yourself to be a conduit of His grace in their lives?

What fruit have you born with your followership of Christ?

When you stand before God, will lost souls point at you in accusation and say He or she never told me about Jesus.

Or worse, will they say, He or she was so angry and so self-righteous that I thought their Jesus was the devil?

How many souls will point to you and say He or she was the spark that led me to Christ?

The answer to those questions begins with another one. When you look in the mirror, do you see a beloved child of God who can trust His love to forgive their sins? Do you see a sinner who does not need to be afraid before God; someone who is forgiven and who is grateful for that forgiveness?

Or …

Do you look in the mirror and see the true lord of your life and the only god you will ever know?

 

 

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Coptic Christians Cry Out to Jesus

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by gkaruna karan https://www.flickr.com/photos/35888164@N06/

This is the real deal. Coptic Christians know and understand martyrdom.

Evidently, before the 21 Christian men were beheaded by ISIS a few days ago, they testified to their faith in Jesus Christ. They are true martyrs, saints of the Lord, who are in heaven right now.

This video is, like so much that comes from our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, deeply humbling.

Lent is a good time for us to consider the question: What will we do with this Jesus they are crying for? How will we stand for Him?

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Is the Liturgy Really That Bad?

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

We’ve recently had a dust-up here on Public Catholic because I had the temerity to (1) disagree rather strongly with Cardinal Burke, and (2) come out in support of altar girls.

You would think that I had  barbecued a kitten.

I deleted a ton of hate-women comments in the course of this discussion. I also deleted another ton of hate-Rebecca comments. According to a good number of commenters, I’ve got myself a ticket to a first-class seat in that proverbial hand bucket headed to hell, all because I think we should have altar girls.

I had to delete that claptrap. If I had let it through, any self-respecting woman would have walked away wondering why she, or any other female person, would want to be part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, someone who didn’t actually go to mass on a regular basis might think that we’re running a carny show, complete with clown suits and balloons, behind the altars of our churches.

Of course, both assumptions would be off the mark. I’m going to set aside the woman question for a moment. That will give time for all those folks who dislike the fair sex so very much to draw a breath and gather themselves for the next attack.

I am instead going to stick my head into the liturgy hay bailer.

My question is simply this: Is the liturgy really that bad?

I mean, I go to mass on a regular basis and Jesus Christ the Lord is there every single time. You can count on it. He is there.

I remember wandering back into the sanctuary after Holy Thursday service one Tridium;  after we’d stripped the altar, removed the Host and doused the flame. The difference was stark. That sanctuary, which had always held a warm Presence every time I entered it, had been transformed into an empty, echoey room. There was no Jesus in that place, and the lack thereof was palpable.

So now we have a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, telling us that the liturgy is all messed up and driving men away from the Church because it has been “feminized.” Evidently, there are a lot of people out there who agree with him.

Public Catholic was deluged with angry commenters, swooping in to announce that the liturgy at our masses — the same liturgy that soothes my soul and brings me in direct contact with my Lord — is straight from the infernal regions. It makes me wonder if they and I are members of the same Catholic Church.

As I’ve already said, and will be happy to say again at any time, I think the Cardinal is playing the blame game. I think that for a Catholic Cardinal to blame anything about the liturgy on women, is, well, almost comical. He is the cardinal. If there is a problem with the liturgy, it’s his responsibility, not that of the womenfolk who sit at the back of the hierarchical bus.

Now, I’m going to take on those poor sad Catholics who seem to live to criticize our Church and its liturgy. As I said, I go to mass on a regular basis. I’ve also gone to mass in a number of places. I’ve never attended mass on the East Coast of the United States, so maybe that’s where the priests in clown suits and tap-dancing altar servers show up to do their do. I don’t know.

All I know is that I’ve never seen it. I have gone to mass in (gasp!) San Francisco, and (another gasp!) Seattle. What I encountered there was the same mass — about half of whose attendees were male, btw — that I saw at various points around the globe, as well as here in God’s country, otherwise known as Oklahoma.

Every mass has had some sort of fumble or titter from the pews. Sometimes a cell phone rings and is then hastily silenced. Babies cry, babies crow, little old ladies belch, the priest gets the words slightly wrong, or the altar server stumbles. I’ve seen people drop the Host and people keel over in a faint and priests trip.

I’ve seen priests who couldn’t stand, sit throughout their homilies and then totter to the altar and, ever so shakily, consecrate the Host and barely lift it up.

I’ve heard applause, and seen people hold hands during the Our Father, and other people get all sniffy about holding hands during the Our Father and transsexuals looking downright odd in their wigs and lipstick and truck driver arms and tattoos. I’ve seen women in saris and men in golfing shorts, and knelt in pews beside folks who needed a bath. I’ve heard mass in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and English. I’ve attended quick daily masses that took about 20 minutes, and full-on masses that lasted for an hour and a half or more.

Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.

I’ve attended mass in living rooms, hotel basements, and once, on a mountaintop with the ocean spread in a 360 degree arc at its base. Every place I’ve gone, every mass I attended, I encountered Christ the Lord.

I didn’t encounter a Django Jesus, standing beside the altar with a baseball bat, ready to smack down the unworthies who try to approach Him. The Jesus I meet in the Eucharist of every Catholic mass is the Good Shepherd, the Jesus of the Cross, Who lays down His life for His sheep.

I have never walked away from the Eucharist feeling condemned. In fact, that encounter with Christ washes away the self-condemnation I so often bring with me when I approach it. I reach out and touch the living Christ, hiding in a wafer, and I walk away feeling accepted and loved.

Considering what sinful people we all are, I don’t see how anyone can approach God with hearts seething with condemnation of the people around them. Do these folks really go to mass and sit there, pick, pick, picking away at the priest, the liturgy, the music?

That is a horrible thought to me. Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?

Don’t you know that you can not enter into the Presence of the Lord that way?

That, and not whether or not people hold hands during the Our Father, or the mass is in Latin or English, or if the people around you are properly reverent, is what can separate you from God.

I feel sorry for these people who spend all their time gnashing their teeth and getting all lathered up over what they see as the terrible liturgy. They are not only missing their blessing, they are taking their blessing and throwing it back into Jesus’ face.

I thank God that we have priests who bring us Jesus at every mass, who consent to be conduits of grace. I have no desire to pick at them over how high they lift the chalice, if they allow applause and whether or not they pray the liturgy with the “proper” amount of gravitas.

I don’t go to mass to find fault. I go to find Jesus.

The truth of life is that no matter what the situation, the occasion, or the event, if you want to sit back and find fault with it, you always can. If you want to go to mass and sit there, ready to carp and complain and pick away at the seams of the thing, you can do it. But if you do that, Jesus Christ will pass right by you and you won’t see Him.

On the other hand, if you go to mass to find Jesus, you will find Him. Because He is there.

My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?

If the mass and the liturgy are good enough for Jesus to be there, if we, with all our imperfections, are good enough for Him to love us and share Himself with us, then what’s our complaint?

I go to mass to find Jesus, and — this is the miracle — I find Him.

Every mass is a miracle. It is not a miracle of silk, lace and candles. It is a miracle wrought in suffering and blood.

Before we get too worked up about the particulars of the mass, we need to remember that Our Lord uses the most common things to do His work. He began with spit and dirt.

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and Jesus said I Am. What do you think He meant?

640px Christ Pantocrator Deesis mosaic Hagia Sophia

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

And Jesus said

I AM the way.

I AM the bread of life.

I AM the light of the world. 

I AM the good shepherd.

I AM the door.

I AM the way, the truth and the life. 

I AM the true vine.

I AM the resurrection and the life.

Before Abraham was, I AM.

What do you think He meant? 

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