Friday, March 24, 2017

Forgiveness- A Lent Challenge

When I think of Lent, I like to think about it as a time of challenging ourselves, wich in turn makes our faith grow stronger. Whether you are giving something up, or trying something new to live by Jesus' example, your opening yourself up to becoming more Holy. I've noticed among a lot of my peers that sometimes people don't know how to prepare their hearts during Lent. Giving up special treats or donating extra hours to help the Church just isn't enough for them. For these people, and for everyone really, I challenge you to forgive this Lent. How can your heart be pure to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus if it is full of hatefulness and grudges. Forgive those who have wronged you, and find peace in moving on. Open your heart up to Joy by truly living the beautiful life God has created for you to the fullest. If you do so, you are one step closer in following the footsteps of Christ.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Dinner Guest- The Conclusion

  Martin felt a tight squeeze on his shoulder as Jesus said, "Let's all enjoy the great feast that has been prepared."
  As Martin sat down he saw Peter and John passing around large serving plates that looked and smelled delicious.  Martin suddenly realized he was starving.  As they ate, Peter shared stories of the people they had met and the healing he had witnessed.  Martin had never heard such incredible stories.  He listened intently trying to remember every detail.
  "Jesus, may I ask you a question now?" Martin inquired.
  "What are you wondering Martin?"
  "Which of these healings do you consider the greatest?"
  "That is a good question Martin," Jesus said.  "The greatest healing is to transform a person's heart.  Each of you sitting at this table has the power to perform this action.  As an extension of the Father's love, He has allowed me to perform some physical healing.    Everyone takes notice of this, but I tell you these are not the greatest.  The greatest are those that occur inside a person's heart.  A heart that is cold and hardened with sin risks being eternally separated from the Father.  A heart that allows God's love to nourish and energize it, begins to embrace the very breath of God-His Holy Spirit.  A heart that is obedient and inspired by the Holy Spirit will live forever in God's Kingdom.
  A physical healing is amazing to those whose focus is on this life, but greater than this life, is God's Kingdom.  The Father grants  many miracles before a life ends here on earth.  Often people pray for their loved ones to be healed, and when a person passes from this life, they think the Father did not answer their prayer.  People don't realize that the Father who is so good and generous grants the greater healing--the healing of the person's soul.  The body was never meant to last forever, but the soul was always intended to love an eternity with the Father.  Sometimes people are blind to God's miracles because they see only the physical limitations of this world.  God's vision is greater and is not limited by this moment in time.  If you could see with your eyes what awaited you in heaven, you would want your soul to be healed more than anything.
  Martin I know your heart is very loyal and trusting.  You have guarded your heart against the evils of this world.  This is wonderful and your family has learned so much from you.  Now you must take your deep love for the Father and share it with everyone.  Share this love even with those who are underserving, transforming their hearts will be a great healing.  And do not be discouraged if no one will notices your healing words and actions  in this world, because in God's Kingdom, no one will be able to stop talking about it.  Every soul that turns back to God and is saved, is a cause of great rejoicing in the Kingdom."
  Jesus' words touched Martin's heart deeply.  As the evening continued, Martin did his best to absorb the wisdom of Jesus' teachings.  Jesus' words were like fire to Martin consuming worldly ideas and replacing them with a torch burning for God and His Kingdom.  Martin had never met anyone who spoke such Truth.
   When the dinner ended and Jesus and his friends rose to leave, Martin felt a deep sadness.  Now that he had met Jesus, he could not see living his life without Him.  Jesus knew Martin's thoughts and he said, "I am counting on you to help me establish the Kingdom.  Remember my words, share the Father's love, and help Zaccheaus.  He will need you.  I cannot stay, but soon the Holy Spirit will be sent to dwell within you.  Embrace the Holy Spirit, Martin, and one day we will continue this dinner in the Kingdom."
  Martin embraced Jesus and promised, "I will remain faithful, you have my word."  Jesus smiled at Martin, and it was this smile that Martin carried with him for the rest of his days.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dinner Guest-Part 4

  Martin looked at Jesus and said,  "You may ask me anything you like."
  "You have children, Martin?"  Jesus asked.
  "Yes, I have 3 boys," Martin replied.
  "And would you say you have done your best to teach them right from wrong?"
  "I like to think so."
  "Martin, what if one of your children, despite all your teachings and all the love you gave him, made poor choices and often hurt those around him.  What would you do with that son?" Jesus asked.
  "Well I would sit down and talk with him.  I would explain that his actions were wrong and that he was hurting others and not living according to God's laws."
  "Would you agree that everyone would benefit if you could help this one son change his ways?"
  "Of course."
  "Martin, you are a good man and a loving father.  God is also a loving father.  He has asked me to share His great love with all of His children.  He has asked me to proclaim the good news to all and to seek those who are lost.  I know you were wondering why I would eat dinner with Zacchaeus?  Zacchaeus had lost his way.  He needed to know that his Heavenly Father loves him, and wants him to be faithful."
  Zacchaeus looked at Jesus and said, "I do want to be faithful.  I want to make up for my past mistakes.  I see now how wrong I was."  Zacchaeus lowered his head with shame.  When he looked up again, he looked at Martin and said, "Martin I have wronged you and your family, and many of the families in town.  I beg you to forgive me and give me another chance."
  Martin could hardly believe this was the same man who had cheated him for so many years.  He was even more surprised when a voice from deep within his chest answered, "I forgive you Zacchaeus."
  Jesus smiled and hugged Martin.  "I know that wasn't easy for you Martin.  You have made me so happy."  As Jesus embraced Martin, he experienced a love that he had never felt before.  He felt completely loved, completely at peace, and completely happy.  Nothing in his life could compare to this embrace, and it felt completely natural when Jesus let go with one arm in order to include Zacchaeus  as well. 

(to be continued...)

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Dinner Guest, Part 3

  Martin walked with purpose towards Zacchaeus' house.  He was nervous and unsure.  What questions should he ask this holy teacher?  Should he even talk at all?  What if this was just a hoax?  Martin stopped for a moment just before Zacchaeus' house to control his nerves.  He reminded himself to slow down his breathing and just try to relax. After a few minutes Martin continued the last few steps to Zacchaeus' house and then knocked loudly on the door.  
  "Martin!" exclaimed Zacchaeus,  "I'm so glad you decided to come!  Please come in! Jesus, this is the dinner guest I was telling you about."
  A man in his early thirties stood up and approached Martin.  He reached out his hand and smiled, "Martin it a pleasure to have you join us tonight.  Hello, I am Jesus."
  Martin shook Jesus' hand and suddenly began to feel at ease.  The three men walked towards a table that had an impressive display of fruits, nuts and wine.  "Please Martin allow me to introduce you to some of my friends that I travel with.  This is Peter, Matthew, John, and James."  Martin reached out to shake each of their hands and then sat down.  Almost immediately, Zacchaeus' servant came to the table with a glass for Martin.
  "Mark get a glass for yourself and join us,"Jesus said.
  "Jesus, he is my servant.  If he sits down who will serve the meal?" Zacchaeus asked.
  "Zacchaeus we will serve each other.  Zacchaeus you see Mark as a servant, but I see something much more.  I would enjoy having Mark share dinner with us tonight."
  Zacchaeus uncomfortably nodded at Mark to join them.  Mark was his very best servant, but he had never shared a meal with him.   Jesus seemed to share his love with everyone.  He obviously didn't care about the social norms of the day.  If he did, he probably would not be here at Zacchaeus' house in the first place.
  "Martin, Zacchaeus has told me they he is trying to make amends with you.  How is that going?"
  Martin looked at Jesus.  There was something so different about this man.  For some reason Martin felt as if he could tell Jesus anything.  "Well to be perfectly honest, I was quite surprised.  I really don't know what to think about this.  For years Zacchaeus has collected the taxes for the Romans--too much taxes in my opinion, and today he showed up at my house with a sack of money he wished to return.  Please sir, tell me if this is a test.  I wish no harm to come to my wife and family."
  Zacchaeus let out a long sigh.  "Jesus I am trying to change my ways.  I'm afraid no one will believe me.  Perhaps I am a lost cause."
  "Fortunately for you Zacchaeus I search out the lost," Jesus responded with a laugh.  "Martin I introduced you to some of my friends earlier.  Matthew, tell Martin and Zacchaeus what you did for a living before you started preaching the good news with me."
  Matthew threw a grape in his mouth and then nodded his head as he said, "I used to be a tax collector.  The person everyone loved to hate.  And then one day Jesus looked at me and said, 'Follow me,' and I got up and left that world behind.  That was the day that my whole life changed."
  Zacchaeus smiled, "That is what I want as well.  I want to change my life. When you called my name,  I felt something inside me change.  It was as if I was seeing my life clearly for the first time."
  Martin saw the others all nod their heads in agreement as they said they had felt that way as well.  Jesus looked at Martin and said, "Martin I know what you are thinking.  Do you mind if I ask you a question?"

(to be continued...)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Dinner Guest, part 2

  (story begins on post dated 3/14/17.)

  Martin grabbed the sack of coins that Zacchaeus threw on the table.  He poured the coins into his hand and stood there completely amazed. Abigail walked over to her husband and smiled at all the coins.  "Martin that is a lot of money."
  "I know.  I don't know what to make of it.  Is this a test?  Will he demand it all back?  Maybe we should just hide it in a safe place for now," said Martin.  
  For the next couple of hours, Martin debated back and forth whether he should go to Zacchaeus' for dinner.  He kept telling himself he was crazy to even be considering it.  Zacchaeus had made his life miserable for years, and now he wants what? to be fair? to be friends?  The whole idea was ludicrous!  But the thought of meeting this holy teacher, Jesus, intrigued Martin.  
  Abigail told Martin all that she had heard about Jesus.  It sounded too good to be true.  Healing blind people, curing the lame, casting out evil spirits, how could a man have such power?  Could God be working through him as some have claimed?  Could he be the long awaited Messiah?  But why would the Messiah eat dinner with a tax collector, especially Zacchaeus, he was probably the most unworthy person Martin knew. Why wouldn't Jesus be at the home of a Pharisee?  It made no sense.  Martin decided he definitely was not going to dinner.
  Abigail had been watching her husband pace back and forth.  Then she saw him pray like he always did, except today he did not look like he was at peace. "Martin," Abigail began, "I think you should go.  What if Jesus is the Messiah?  You have prayed your whole life for the Messiah to come.  We both have.  Go see for yourself."
  Martin rubbed his forehead back and forth as if he were trying to erase the questions his mind kept asking- what if Jesus is the Messiah?  Martin looked at his wife, "I don't know what to do.  I feel I am a fool for even considering eating dinner with Zacchaeus.  But....I could be a fool for my Lord, if He wanted me to go.  I feel like I am supposed to go, but why?"
  "Martin, just go and see.  If Zacchaeus is lying and if Jesus is not there, then you can turn around and come home and we will eat together as a family like we always do.  I will tell the children you had business to attend to and you will be home when it is over.  Just go or else you will always wonder what might have happened."
  Martin began rubbing his beard next, and then said, "Abigail you know me well......I guess I will go, and I will see for myself this holy man they call Jesus.  Martin walked outside and took a deep breath in and then let it out, and then for the first time ever, he headed for Zacchaeus' house.

(to be continued...)


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Dinner Guest

  Martin had just returned home from the fields when he heard a knock at the door.  Cautiously, his wife Abigail peeked out the window.  She looked at Martin and shook her head "no."  "It's Zacchaeus," she whispered.  Martin remained perfectly still as he heard Zacchaeus continue to knock.
  "Martin, I know you are in there.  I saw you return.  Open the door," insisted Zacchaeus.
  "Go away, Zacchaeus.  You took all our money yesterday.  I have nothing left to give you," replied Martin.
  "Martin, your right.  I took your money yesterday, and well....I think I may have taken too much.  I would like to repay you," admitted Zacchaeus.
  Martin scowled.  "Is this some new tactic you are trying?  I have nothing to give you."
  "Please Martin, open this door.  I speak the truth."
  "Since when do you return money or speak the truth?" asked Martin.
  "Well since....since today.  I have promised Jesus to repay those I have cheated."
  "I have heard of this Jesus," whispered Abigail as she stepped closer.  "He is a very holy teacher.  He has been healing many of the townspeople.  He has even forgiven people of their sins."
  "No man can forgive people's sins," replied Martin.
  "Martin, it's true.  He says 'Your sins are forgiven' and then people are healed.  You know the blind beggar that sits in front of the temple?"
  "Of course."
  "They say he is not blind anymore.  He has been healed by this Jesus," revealed Abigail.
  Just then Zacchaeus pushed open the door.  "Martin, here, this is for you."  He handed Martin a bag of coins.  "I was a greedy man.  I overcharged you.  Please take this.  I am a changed man now.  I will be honest in all my future dealings with you."
  Martin did not trust Zacchaeus for a second.  This must be a new trick of his.  "Why would I believe you are a changed man?  You have never listened to any of my pleas when you demanded money, but now you want me to believe things will be different?"
  "Martin, I know you to be an honest and good man.  I know it will be difficult for people to think of me differently, and I only have myself to blame.  Today, something incredible has happened to me.  Jesus from Nazareth, talked to me.  There was a whole crowd of people, and he noticed me.  I felt something inside me when He spoke my name--it's hard to explain.... the emptiness that I normally feel..... well, it's gone .... and now I feel....  alive.  I know, I know, I'm not making sense, but I am begging you for a second chance.  Jesus is coming to my house for dinner tonight.  I would like you to come as well.  Maybe if we shared a meal together with Jesus,  everything will be different."
  Martin looked long and hard at Zacchaeus.  He had never seen this side of Zacchaeus.  Was he delirious with a fever?  How could one man change Zacchaeus?  But... if one man could.... Martin would like to meet that man.  "I will consider your invitation, but I make no promises," Martin said.
  "I understand," Zacchaeus said.  "Regardless of your decision, here is the money I owe you and then some. Time will show you that I have changed."  Zacchaeus walked back out the door and began to wonder what he would be serving for dinner tonight."

(to be continued...)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Life--The Creator's Gift

  This weekend I would like you to pray for those who have undervalued the tremendous gift of life that God has shared with each of us.  Each and everyone of us is created with a special mission.  We can't build up The Kingdom if we are tearing each other down.  Please join me in praying for those who can not see Jesus present in the person next to them.

Loving Jesus,
we pray for all those who mistreat and injure others 
physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  
Let us all recognize that life is a gift from the Creator.  
A gift beyond our own human comprehension, 
with a value greater than any number could ever measure.  
Let us recognize that Your Plan for life comes before
our own greed, our own desires, our own anger, our own intellect, and our own sense of justice.  
Father we pray for drug dealers, murderers, rapists, terrorists, and bullies everywhere
to turn away from their sins and return to the Gospel.  
Please heal their brokenness so that they will no longer hurt others.  
We pray that you bestow special graces 
to all they have injured.  
Gather the injured in your loving arms,
protect and heal them.