One more Ordinary Sunday homily on grace

Sermon on the Mount–The “Don’t Worry” Gospel.  Photo= Gary Zimak speaking here last Feb. about handling anxiety. ‘Remember? They were 3 great talks.

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I lead off with a reference to bulletin blurbs. This week we nearly printed the guidelines for giving up mean for Lent. Yes, we meant meat! But, hey, perhaps giving up being mean is really better!  It reminded me of another bulletin blunder that read: Don’t just let worry kill you, let the Church help.  Say what?!

No, the Church and Jesus ARE working AGAINST worry and stress, really.  It the Peace Rite at Mass we truly petition God for our wanting freedom from sin’s dominion (like fear) and to be safe from all distress, as we await the Blessed Hope and Coming of Jesus in Glory.

How to Let Grace Win out over Worrying

In this Year of Grace, we are especially pondering how to have God’s favor upon us lead us to more victorious and fruitful Catholic living.   One obstacle in our path is worry or anxiety—as Jesus pointed out in His message today.  The Savior in His sermon on the mount said:  “One cannot add a single moment to their life by worrying… do not worry.”

Recall those talks last year by our special guest speaker Gary Zimak—the author of the “Worriers Guide to the Bible.’   He came for three nights with different addresses to urge us to not let worry take away the joy of our Catholic faith.  He urged us to pray:  “Lord, help me again, for I have fallen again to worry, and I so reduce myself by it, let my faith and trust in You rise up instead.  Help me to trust You, again, right now, and turn this thing around.  I surrender once again—to You!”   Such prayers work!

I know that how, for some of you, Gary’s message was an ice-breaker for you to get finally free of the icy holds that you had been used to being shackled by.

Today’s gospel has Jesus addressing our need to trust in the Father Almighty’s plan.   There is a Master Plan and we can trust in it.   Jesus did so Himself, as He lived and made choices in our very position as a human person.  Jesus said:  Consider how nature relies on God: you too are a natural wonder of God, now act so!   You can take the lessons of the lilies of the field, dear disciple.  They don’t toil in living under God.  Why, then, do you?

When we feel that things are out of our control, that is when we tend to worry, but how do you stop worrying?  For starters, remember that God, not you, is in control.  Also, of about worrying, most of the awful things we imagine that will happen often never do. We can be thankful for that.  We should better understand that worrying never helps a situation get better. Worrying sends a message to ourselves and those around us that we are helpless and have nowhere to turn or no One to deliver us. However, as a Christian, we believe that God has everything in His control. If He really does, and we really believe that, then we have nothing to worry about. We only need to trust that God will take care of everything according to His plan.

Here are five more short tips from the Bible to help us to be free from our anxieties.

First, we can confess to God that we are falling into fear again, and ask Him to strengthen us.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:6,7 to “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Yes, we can be so cautious that it is not hesitancy or prudence in the lead, but timidity and fear and being overly concerned for something—as if we have to have it all under our control.  Why not remind yourself that God is in control, and ask God to help out, thanking Him that He is there.  Stop worrying by taking your requests to Him. You have a “go-to God.” Peace comes from being in Christ Jesus, rather than just self-reliance.  Yes, we do what we can, then we leave the rest up to God from there.

Secondly, that same verse reminds us to be thankful.  “O God, thanks, that You’ve Got This: Amen.”

Thirdly, if one goes on to the very next verse in Philippians 4, verse 8, the Word of God gives us more advice:   Quote:  Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Just after Paul’s comments about worry he says that we should think on good, godly things. When we focus on positive and wholesome events, memories, plans, etc., then it is hard to be worried about everything else.   Christians should be positive-minded people for we know God and His plan wins out in the end.  Yes, you might have a problem going on, like needing a new job—but what about the work of God (or job of God) in you?  Are you becoming more like Christ, as in being more a true self, honest person, with a good pure intention or loving heart in what you do?  Are you giving witness or good report of a life of faith, and do you have some virtue shining through, and can you praise God for something in your life?!  If so, then be of that mind, not of worry.

Fourthly, we have a Counselor to call upon.   We are blessed in the Holy Spirit, Who goes by the title Comforter and Counselor.   He is a Gift from Jesus to us to live the life of being His disciple.  It says in John 14:26, 27 “But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind for peace….so let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Would we just let that Word be planted deep within us as real and reliable!

In John 14 Jesus is explaining to the disciples where He is going and that He will return. In the meantime the Holy Spirit of God will come and indwell the believers. This was something new to the people of Jesus’ day. They did not have the Holy Spirit living within them like we do as believers today.  Jesus could have been worried about His whole salvation plan working, but He turned it over, for the Spirit’s help of comfort.”   “Come, Sweet Comforter, and help me.  Live according to Your Name.   I need it.”

The Father comforts too.  The Word says in 1 Peter 5:6, 7 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for He cares for you.”  O God, I may be suffering and low right now, but You are the exalter.  Lift me up in Your own Self.  Unite me to You via your Son and Spirit.

Fifthly, we should realize that there is an inner strength to us, if we have received Christ into us. Even the Psalmist, having some of the spirit of God, declares in:  Psalm 27:1-3 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?   So does Isaiah say in:  Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you, and yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Life was a lot less scary (and worrisome) when we were kids and we had parents who were bigger and stronger than us. When we had problems we could go to them and they would say that they would take care of it. We have a God that wants to do that for us today. Will you take your concerns to Him and rely on His strength?  He is waiting to take that burden from you.

And what if you just can’t see how all you are looking at adds up to Heavenly Aid?   Go to Romans 8:28 of God’s Promise, as He says to us: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”.  Amen to that.

Parish Mission is Coming

HEADLINES:  LENT AND A PARISH MISSION ARE SOON ARRIVING.

LENT BEGINS ON THIS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1ST.   THIS DRAWING BELOW BY A MEMBER OF MY KINDERGARTEN CLASS AT ST. PIUS X SCHOOL PROVIDES YOU A VISUAL OF THE SPECIAL DAY OF PENITENCE IN THE CHURCH.          THE PARISH WILL HAVE A SOUP AND STATIONS ON TIMAG0955_1HE FIRST FRIDAY OF LENT, MARCH 3RD.  SOUP IS AT 630 IN THE HALL AND STATIONS ARE AT 730-800 P.M. IN CHURCH. 

THEN THE REAL BIG THING! THE PARISH MISSION BEGINS ON THE SUNDAY NIGHT FOLLOWING (MARCH 5TH AT 7 P.M.).  IMG_3151

IN NEXT WEEKEND’S MASSES, OUR MISSION PRIEST, FR. BLAISE CZAJA, WILL BE HERE TO SPEAK AT ALL MASSES (VIA HOMILIES, AND BEING AVAILABLE AFTERWARDS FOR A HELLO).  HE ALSO WILL BE AT OUR SOUP AND STATIONS, AS HE ARRIVES FRIDAY TO US. 

THE PARISH MISSION TALKS ARE AT 7 P.M. ON SUNDAY, MONDAY, TUESDAY, AND WEDNESDAY NIGHTS—MARCH 5TH THROUGH THE 8TH IN THE CHURCH. 

THERE ALSO WILL BE DAILY MASS AT 8:45 A.M. MON-WED. WITH FR. BLAISE PUTTING A MORNING REFLECTION ADDED ONTO THE MASS. 

14747641130451560106922WHOOOOOO SHOULD GO TO THE PARISH MISSION?  WHY SHOULD ONE GO TO IT?  THE WISE OWL QUOTES FROM THE BOOK OF WISDOM:  “Wisdom is glorious, and never fades away: Yes, indeed, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as do seek her…  seek her early, and you shall find her sitting at your door, waiting to gift you…For wisdom goes about seeking to bless people… showing favor (grace) to them in their ways and thoughts.”

 

Why a Parish Mission?    Pope Francis keeps encouraging the Church to be alive, like it is “on mission,” remaining in the task to bring the Good News to the world.                 Firstly, we need to be alive to our own baptismal call, and with our common call as fellow believers, appreciative of the Presence of the Lord Jesus to us, as “head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18).”  So, a mission seeks the draw the parish together into Christ Jesus and to be rejuvenated where she needs to live afresh in God.   A mission priest comes to be the vehicle for that motivation to the parish.  Fr. Blaise is good at it, and our parish shows the need for his ministry at this time.

Secondly, we need opportunities like this to not only bless ourselves in this time, but to afford others the opportunity to come back to the Church, or investigate her for the first official time.  A mission can be uplifting both to the new person as well as the long-time practicing Catholic.

Thirdly, the parish mission draws the whole parish together.  Since we have four regular Sunday Masses, it does fragment us a bit, but a mission has us all gathered as one for four evenings.  We meet one another and we get recharged.  Everyone takes time for the truly important things like wonder, mystery and prayer. Faith is stirred.  Our sense of “parish” is re-awakened.  Lives experience healing and the love of God, via our welcome and availability to the work of the Holy Spirit.  We show we “seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33);” God responds to our openness.

Fourthly, in a Year of Grace, we afford a special avenue of experience for it.

As our slogan says beneath the parish altar, we beseech you:  “Abide in Grace.”

 

More on Basic Definitions of Grace

It’s a “Year of Grace” theme in 2017 in the Church.  You’ll see Bible quotes on grace in the bulletin and articles/homilies on grace in this blog.  Carrying on from Sunday’s homily, we talk of some basic definitions of Grace.

From your catechism classes when you were growing up, you probably remember that there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual.  What makes those two kinds different?  Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly,  it is supernatural life.  Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s the supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace.

We can fall into mortal sin and deny the work of sanctifying grace.  It’s our free will to reject God, but the Bible says it is the unpardonable sin if we’ll take it that far (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit– one’s un-cooperating with God’s work to be sanctified).   If we die in this state of mortal sin, then we have not the sanctifying grace to help us exist with God in Heaven.  It would be like trying to live more than ten minutes at the sea bottom with no means for breathing air.  Grace is the air of existence with God.

Only the fictional people of Sponge Bob and his Bikini Bottom pals do seem to get by in the underwater world, but in real life we cannot.   (By the way, do you remember my blogs from over a year ago when I mentioned how that kid’s show covers the 7 deadly sins in its characters, covertly?  Really!  Even Sponge Bob knows the lessons about humankind’s needing to live in grace! He wants to become holy!)

If we humans would want to live in the deep blue existence of a Holy God, then we will need ‘equipment’ we aren’t provided with naturally; we need something that will elevate us above our nature, something super- (that is, “above”) natural, such as the oxygen tanks of Grace.  In this comparison of air to grace, and living underwater to heaven, the lesson applies to our soul. In its natural state, it isn’t fit for heaven. It doesn’t have the right equipment, and if you die with your soul in its natural state, you won’t last 5 minutes nor 5 seconds in heaven; it won’t be for you. What you need to live there is supernatural life, not just natural life. That supernatural life is called sanctifying grace. It is holiness.

The reason you and I need sanctifying grace to be able to live in heaven is because there one is meant to live perfectly and in absolute union with God, the source of all life (cf. Gal. 2:19, 1 Pet. 3:18).  Now the cool thing is that God decided that we would first receive sanctifying grace down here, so to practice a start into the Spirit-assisted life of the supernatural (which we call the Christian Way– so to not have anything confused with aliens from outer space or ghostly things seen on the Horror cable tv channel)!

Heaven comes down in Jesus and Grace enters our soul in our union to Him.   God in Christ reaches out to us with the saving assistance we so desperately need.  And, He tells us, that our need isn’t just for ahead in paradise living, but that we are to learn how to live by grace while here on earth.  We need conversion of life to be grace dependers.

Actual grace would then be all that holy help and inspiration from God to motivate us into holiness/wholeness of life.  Are you recognizing those blessings coming your way?  One, I am sure, is the arrival of a parish mission to stir up and/or rejuvenate St. Edward’s people here.  Fr. Blaise Czaja comes from March 5-8 in 7 p.m. talks.

We Christians are beginning to breathe into the eternal.  Eternal life actually starts here, in our consent and decisions for God’s reign over us.  We learn to accept Christ and His way in us. St. Paul wrote down many things about this.  Romans chapter 8 has verses describing this activity:  “If Christ is in you…the spirit is alive because of righteousness… Led by the Spirit. (you) are children of God (now)…You received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father.. You are under grace….the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus as Lord (of our present to future existence).”

If sanctifying grace dwells in your soul when you die, then you’lol have the equipment you need, and you can live in heaven (though you may need to be purified first in purgatory; cf. 1 Cor. 3:12–16). If it doesn’t dwell in one’s soul when they die—in other words, if their soul is spiritually dead by being in the state of mortal sin (Gal. 5:19-21)— they are not equipped for life in heaven.  They face the real probability of face an eternity of spiritual death: the utter separation of their spirit from God (Eph. 2:1, 2:5, 4:18). The worst part of this eternal separation will be that one would have caused it to be that way, having not caught on in earth how all people in the flesh were dying away a little more and more each day when not living in Christ and the Grace of God.  (Of course, God in His mercy knows who was rebelling and resisting Him, or not– He knows the soul’s state and He is its ultimate Judge.)

So it’s important for us to catch up on Grace Lessons 101. How are we valuing Grace from God in our lives and letting it prepare us for union with God above?

Questions: What ways are you yielding to actual grace? How do you recognize it? Are you looking or seeking for it?

How do you value the Sacrament of Reconciliation in all this?  Do you receive pushes or nudges to head to a Reconciliation Room with a confessor, where the guilt for your sins is remitted (John 20:21–23)? Through the sacrament of penance, through your reconciliation to God, you receive sanctifying grace. But you can lose it again by sinning mortally (1 John 5:16–17).   Mortal sins do serious harm to our souls ( hence, the name)– see what Proverbs 6, Galatians 5, or 1 Cor. 6 say.  1 John 5:17 tell us that venial sins are less alarming, though we still work to curb them, too.

Our grave matter needs to be brought into the Light . God will offer you the help to keep living and breathing in the Holy Spirit, in your new dawn and new nature in Christ– and you very much need to cooperate. This Sacrament is invaluable to that pursuit of holiness. God is ready; we must come to seek His aid.

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A source of this information on grace here (and upcoming) is from Catholic Answers.  It is quite an informative web site.

 

 

Grace: What it is, What it does (homily)

The eye for an eye, tooth for tooth way of doing things once was seemed a fair way to handle things.  The revengeful response of this-for-that, I’ll hurt you because you hurt me, I’ll not care for you because you never seemed to care for me way of doing things–this all seemed fair once upon a time.  But Jesus came.  Grace came among us in His Person, the Second Member of the Holy Trinity, and He introduce humanity to our original design and living as neighbors, and He elevated humanity in HIs coming to share in the Grace of His own Sacred Heart among us, and His own Spirit.

Things changed for the earth.   Grace happened upon us.   A New Covenant, a New Life dawned to the people of the world in Jesus.  We now could accept grace as the new normal.  God came to us (in Christ) in an unconditional favor and He showed how far love could go when powered by grace.   Today’s Gospel teaching of Jesus introduced some ideas of grace-led living:  if someone asks your help to walk a mile with them, then say yes and even offer to go a second mile…. if someone genuinely needs an article of clothing, then give what extra you have, or even the shirt off your back. … if you’re struck on the right side for doing good, then you might have to resist evil or bad a second time on the left, in tolerance or non-violence– to not resort to that level where and when hatred and division and war starts out.  Can you be the peacemaker?  Can the cycle of harm be stopped by your own brave and good actions?

Rather than humanity being AT ONE ANOTHER, Grace comes to have us be helped to come together under God again. Jesus brings peace and favor on earth for people of good will.

Major examples of this..

There was a person who had been the next one in a string of generations of family who had to face a ‘family curse’ as he put it.   His great-great grandfather, then his great grandfather, his grandfather, and his father all struggled with something that they each gave into–each succumbed to the temptation.  But with this person of the new generation, he said:  “Enough.  It ends with my generation.  I will plead my Lord for the way to not continue in that path, whatever it takes.”

Praise God, after much prayer, sweat and tears, he conquered.  It took a dear, authentic, help-me-God faith.  He became the blessed peacemaker, and the help of God broke through the defenses of pride.

That above account is an example of the spirit of Grace in a person.

In another example, a person at a job, working with numbers of fellow Christians, became agitated in her spirit that their firm was cooperating in an evil regularly, with everybody turning a blind eye to it, since the boss did not have scruples or the moral fortitude to admit the wrongdoing he started, justifying it by saying “other firms do it, so we have to compete in the same way.”  It had gone on long enough, and this woman with the conscience wanted to bring the immoral practice up at a meeting.  She knew that her official complaint about it perhaps could cost her this well-paying job.  The exposure of the dark dishonest practice brought immediate wrath upon her from the boss and she was terminated by that person, in some set-up false charge manipulated against her.  Yet in that workplace, in the aftermath of it all, the rest of her colleagues began to muster the same courage, which they tabbed “grace under pressure,” to get that immoral practice at their firm stopped and the fired woman’s dignity restored back.  It took a while for it to happen, but the immoral practice was stopped at the firm. The woman’s resume was fixed.  Still, her life and career were scarred from that episode, but she ways that the ongoing conversion in God’s grace to her soul is going right.

Jesus came in Grace to the world, when the plan of spilling it out generously for us all to practice.   His lavish generosity of favor outpoured to us, though so undeserved by us, is the story of his recovering humankind to our original path and destiny.  We are made to be grace-full.

While a world wants to go at one another, Jesus inspires us, as in today’s Gospel message, instead to share grace to our neighbor and to receive grace back.   God will live in those united hearts and remake humankind.   In it all, we can be fit for Heaven eventually, which is The Place of Grace.

One cannot live in Heaven, but for the learned way of cooperating and living fully in Grace.

We continue our Year of Grace theme in 2017 with some basic definitions of Grace.

If you took your parish’s catechism classes when you were growing up, you at least remember that there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual. That may be all you recall. The names being so similar, you might have the impression sanctifying grace is nearly identical to actual grace. Not so.

Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly,  it is supernatural life.   In the Sacraments and by means of the open heart to God, Jesus starts the work in us for the supernatural– no not sci-fi horror type, but the elevated way of living that grace affords us to go beyond our natural selves, which are harmed by our sin and brokenness.  Grace can perfect us, even win over eventually of our nature, and we become blessed people, souls in holiness embodies by our humanity on the way to utter salvation in God.

Actual grace, by contrast to sanctifying grace, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s a supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace.

We very much need to keep in sanctifying grace, as we won’t be able to enter into Heaven without it, because everything transcends the natural there.  Even our bodies will be graced, perfected ones there–by Grace’s assistance.   Our minds will be so much more elevated there in Heaven, even permitted and able there to see God and to perceive mysteries so profound, that which will take a whole lot of ‘supernaturality.’

But we need to be disciple by Jesus.  There are lessons for the ultimate conversion.

So we start the participation in God’s grace right here, right now.  Even as we all are on a child-like level with God, we must accept the reign of God and the trustful life of letting grace in and letting our carnal self go.  If not, if we don’t go along with God’s lessons on grace but instead choose to live by the worldliness of sin and let our fallen nature lead, then we’ll find ourselves in death as like at the bottom of the ocean without air.  Mortal sins can kill the soul, take away our freedom and participation in God, so we must consider how the Sacraments, such as Confession and Communion, are important measures to practice for a grace-filled life.  Confirmation’s gift of the Spirit also is a reminder to us that we have virtues to live out, charity to serve, faith and knowledge to grow more deeply in,  and the many ways of the Holy Spirit to have us  to become like Christ and live in sanctified love.

There is such Good News here.  We Christians are soul-breathing into the eternal, and our bodies, feeling sinful or unworthy at times, are being re-worked to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and even to become the finished wonder of the Body of Believers, the Church, to be “bride” to Christ, as the Bible tells in its ending chapter.   Our exodus story of the New Covenant is to be made a people home with God forever, and we shall show our friendship on our pilgrim journey on earth as His Catholic believers and with our other friends of faith God leads to Himself.

St. Paul wrote down many things of how we are to live in grace by Christ’ Spirit.  It is our vocation, our “supernaturality,” as it is.    Romans chapter 8 has verses describing this activity:  “If Christ is in you…the spirit is alive because of righteousness…Led by the Spirit. (you) are children of God (now)…You received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father.. You are under grace….the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus as Lord (of our present to future existence).”

What can Grace do in you in easier examples of everyday living?

It can help you bear with situations with people that just seem impossible, uncomfortable, unreasonable, and otherwise hard.  They are occasions for Christ in you to live by grace.  He’ll show you.  His unconditional love is yours to borrow at times so difficult.  His noticing of people for the broken vessels they are–and putting that in your heart and eyes– will be helpful for you to see and understand better what life is throwing at you, or why it is how it is.  He also will bear you up in grace to your heart.

It can help you getting over the hump of something that has been your struggle for so long.  Maybe less human natural effort, and some super-natural effects, like Grace, can bring you peace.

Grace can bless you with a cave of the heart experience, a refuge in God– where a spirit for personal prayer,and worship, or Scripture pondering, or a shared Christian experience with others in openness to God, can give you refuge from life’s storms. That’s Grace, too.  May such Grace be yours.  Amen.

From the Silly to Serious Signs– Part two

In my last blog, we were looking at Signs of the Times of the Second Coming of Christ.

I have two more “signs” of some historic notice to highlight in today’s column.  Yet first, here is an extended review of our Catholic beliefs on the ‘end things.’  I thought it necessary.

About the Second Coming, Catholics believe Jesus will come again. We teach that Jesus could come again at any time. His return is immanent. The Church’s Creed affirms that when Jesus returns, He will judge both the living and the dead. At that time, the world will come to an end. Catholics reject the belief in any coming “tribulation period” or a “rapture of the church” common among some other Christian denominations.  We believe Jesus will simply return, judge all of humanity, and bring an end to time.”

About the related idea of a Kingdom of God reign, Catholics see the Kingdom of God as something present and visible in the Catholic Church (and to wherever God will want to extend His body of believers into His elect), but we well also speak of it as something greater yet to come in experience in heaven. Catholics reject a literal millennial kingdom period, a belief common in some other Christian denominations. Saint Augustine first articulated kingdom view in his “City of God.” Yet he meant the age of the Church would be this kingdom period.  Catholics expect the Church and the gospel to spread to the entire world before the end comes, encompassing the entire earth in the made-available Kingdom of God.   That, indeed, is what we are trying to do presently.  Each Mass ends with a clergyman’s dismissal, such as “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”

Christ will come.  We need for people to come to know Him before He appears in Glory.

We Catholics, for our whole history, have professed our belief that Jesus will come again in a glorious Second Coming.  Our Mystery of Faith in the center of the Eucharistic Prayer of Mass (as prayed/sung by the people) proclaims it and pleads God for it: “Lord Jesus, come in glory!”  Our Scriptures proclaimed in our liturgies announces it, such as in Revelation 1:7 (New American Bible) “Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him.  Yes. Amen.”  Or in Micah 1:2-4,11; 4:1,3 “Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place…I will again bring a conqueror to you, inhabitants of Mareshah; the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam (Canaan).”  “…In the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of The Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow unto it…“And he will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”  Matthew’s Gospel ending (Mt. 24:30; 26:64) are proclaim texts quite familiar to Catholic ears about the End Times- “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory…(and Jesus said to him), You have said one thing, nevertheless, I say to you another, that, hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and then coming in the clouds of heaven.”

So, while no one knows the day, nor should try to know it– of this Glorious Return of Jesus– He did leave some clues to the End Times signs.  Here, as promised, are two more such “signs.”  They are taken from the same Matthew 24 text.(vs. 3-8)

A) Growth of false teachers/ antichrists and deceivers of the Gospel message in the End Times.  B) Wars, earthquakes, famines as “birth pangs” of The End being near.

Jesus pointed to these things as He said in the finish of His ministry, while sitting on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and asked, ‘When will all this take place? And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?’ Jesus told them, ‘Don’t let anyone mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will lead many astray. And wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately. The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come.‘”
This translation doesn’t spell out what the “horrors” mean, but Strong’s Concordance communicates that the end times will be analogous to the birthing process, because  the word “horrors” comes from the word “odin” which is best translated as “the pain of childbirth” or “birth pangs.”  This means that, much like birth pangs, signs of the end times will appear with greater frequency and intensity as Christ’s return draws near.

History shows that wars, famines and earthquakes are increasing in frequency and intensity.  Let’s see the figures.  According to a Wikipedia list of wars, the past 500 years have witnessed an increase in the frequency of wars:  15th Century – 29 wars.  16th C. – 59. 17th C. – 75.  18th C.- 69.  19th C. – 294.  20th Century – 278 wars.  The first decade of the 21st Century already did witness 55 wars, putting humanity on course for 550 wars over the next one hundred year period.
According to Wikipedia, the past 500 years have also witnessed an increase in the frequency of famines: 15th Century – 6 famines.  16th C. – 10.  17th – 24.  18th – 28.  19th – 30.  20th Century – 44 famines. The first decade of this century alone witnessed 12 famines already, putting humanity on course for 120 famines for this century!
As the population of the world has grown, famines have caused more and more death and destruction in their wake.  Yet is it a population problem?  No.  It’s a greed problem and a pride problem.  We have great capacity to feed the world, even of this size now.
According to a Wikipedia list of earthquakes, the past 500 years have witnessed the following number of earthquakes described as a magnitude 7.0 or greater:
15th Century – 2 earthquakes    16th – 3 of them.   17th – 7 of them.  18th – 13 of them.   19th – 29 of them.   20th Century – 123 of them!  The first decade of this 21st Century already witnessed 144 earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, putting humanity on course for 1,440 such earthquakes over the next century.  ‘Yikes!
The dramatic increase in devastating wars, famines, and earthquakes from the time of Jesus until today is one of clearest signs of the end times.  So it is a good thing to bring yourself to be ready for the Coming of The Lord.

As for false messiahs, antichrists and the like– just think of the big opposition to the Catholic Church today.  She seems to be a target for many.  Many would like to take her down.  Yet Jesus knew this from the start, saying to Simon Peter:  “The gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”  That comment from the Savior indicates how He knew they would definitely try to defeat or stop us.  Many today will indirectly be an opponent of The Church, with persons who will claim their own authority to bring a counter-message to that of the Church, as in preaching to “itching ears” as 2nd Timothy 4:3 describes.   Many declare their own versions of Christianity today, ignoring the One Jesus founded to be kept through time until His return.  The numbers of separate churches or communities calling themselves Christian is staggering in 2017.  The teachings of Jesus in John 17 are not much followed today, bringing on all the disunity of those called as “Christian.”  The “love one another” commandment of our Lord seems to be set aside instead for selfish things.  Even Gandhi said that perhaps the world’s biggest sin (amidst a world of people calling themselves ‘decent’) is greed of self.

The Loving Oneness of Christ Jesus was meant, most of all, to be expressed in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist.  The Pauline mandate for the Eucharistic sacrifice by priests (as himself) to be prayed with the faithful, until Christ’ Return, is not followed at all outside the original Catholic orthodox Church.  “We proclaim the death (sacrificial offering) of Christ until He comes again,” said St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 11:26 in his epistle text on the Mass of the early church in Greece.  The true Church has the Eucharist to offer (re-present) to God.  The Church has the successor to Peter and the apostles, too.  Yet many choose to stand outside of her (or one might say: HIM).   Paul said that we are to strive to be “in Christ.”  He says it 160 times in his epistles.  Yup.

That is the sad state within Christendom–our division.

Then there is the awful state outside of Christendom, of people claiming to be equal or better than ‘regular’ or historic Christianity.  This time of history is full of many cults, some of the occult movements most obviously under Satan, others in new age movements under some spirit, not to the honor of Jesus, but still there are left the millions of others in false groups (cults) that claim some connection to Christ but not to His divinity.  Those cult members and false teachers are in a dire state themselves, outside of the salvation teaching of the Lord Jesus, Who very much IS Divine.  Jesus is God and man.   Scientology followers, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Unitarians, The Way members, Jehovah Witnesses and many more such cults claim to be godly, but there is not the acknowledgement of any to Jesus being as Lord God over them, that is, not in the way as He asked of His own.  thDNHZGYSJJohn’s epistles in the Bible are all about warnings of such false teachings and teachers.  The Early Church also has her hard fought accounts versus many heresies and distortions of the Truth of Christ.   Those original orthodox believers would be aghast at what is taking place today in these above false movements.thLK3WKK6Z

If one were to put up a road sign of all this spiritual confusion, then I think the one of the intersection depicted would be it.

Yet, more worse than the false teachings or astray ways going on is what’s ahead.   Gaining force to affront the Church is the real possibility for a global false leader of huge magnitude to mislead the world and to gain a massive following.  If the smaller antichrists of Hitler and Stalin weren’t bad enough last century, then we might shudder at who and what this century might bring us.  The rise of globalization and maybe a multinational world government and controlling system on the earth could bring the AntiChrist.  One day, a single man will rule all the people and nations on the earth, so seems to warn St. John’s Apocalypse vision: “And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Revelation 13:7
Given the current global financial crisis and the potential catastrophe of a global war, more and more diplomatic leaders and world politicians are calling for global government.  And as human technology continues to advance and mature, we’re quickly reaching a point where global totalitarian rule will be possible.  Some great deceiver will come forth to persecute the Church and Christ’ own, while seemingly being the popular figure for worldly people to follow, right to their oblivion.  Yet there will be a people of great faith keeping obedient to Christ and His Truth and Headship of the Body.  “And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world – to every nation, tribe, language, and people. ‘Fear God,’ he shouted. ‘Give glory to him. For the time has come when He will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.’” Revelation 14:6-7 (NLT)      Or worship the Deceiver.

What an awful time of conflict that portends to be.   Let’s pray for the strength to “endure to the end and be saved.(Matthew 24:13).”

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Prophecy is telling us that Christ is coming.
“In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know His return is near, at the door.” Matthew 24:33

The time on the clock of time is ticking.  “Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11.

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From the Silly to the Serious Signs– of the End Times

th8UXRGELIA Long Teaching on the End Times. Back in Advent Season, the Church took its annual look into the Word of Jesus’ Promise to Return in glory. In this 6th week of Ordinary Time daily Masses, we are hearing of Noah’s story (told in Genesis) and we relate it to Christ Jesus as being the ultimate fulfillment of Noah’s hope, as His Body will be the “ark” in which people will find our “passage” from the judgment onto the great hope of Heaven. Noah was the one who found favor with God before He unleashed the Flood.  All who were with Noah (man and creature) were saved.   So it will be in Glorious manner with those who are with and in Christ Jesus; they shall be in His favor and saved by God by His provision.  We consider the Church to be the new ark for people to come and get into Christ for salvation.    In this Year of Grace, that is a sound message of our Saving Grace via Christ the Lord, which is offered by Him, can be lived now through Him, and is to come for us as with “The Day” of salvation.  (Our Rising Up day in Jesus–the Second Coming Day.)

In today’s Genesis Bible story (Wed. 6th week Ordinary Time), the image of the dove coming back to Noah’s Ark is seen as the fore-sign of The Holy Spirit, the Dove of Peace, coming to the Church that is together in the Lord in the end times.   With peace in the Holy Spirit, we shall not fear The Day of the Lord ” (Old Testament; יֹום יְהוָה  and New Testament ἡμέρα κυρίου, as in “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD does come upon us all. ” (Joel 2:31, cited in Acts 2:20).

When we get along to April and to the Easter Season, we shall ponder the End Times promises again and from the perspective of Jesus’ Sign of Jonah, that He is Risen and, for those people of faith (of humbled, repentant hearts in Him), they have The Advocate in Heaven coming in Return for them.  Until His Return, when the Son shall come and raise our bodies up to be with God where our souls have gone to, we live on in Faith.   We keep on growing in The Lord and in His Body until The Day.    We live on to know the Lord better and to keep in hope in His Promises, and we share our Faith of the great grace of Jesus for saving sinners.

As Peter says: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

As we wait upon the Lord of Glory, we must hold on against the current of all those who mock and scoff at such a Day to come or that Christ Jesus would be their Judge.  But He will!  Many think there is no Second Coming and Judgment to arrive from the Eternal Son Jesus.   The apostle Peter knew this sad conclusion from the start of the Church when he preached to the flock:  “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created*.’” 2 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT)                        *=BIG HINT–but it will not remain the same

Well, things really aren’t remaining the same, as some scoffers say.   We press on in history, seeing some prophetic signs getting met, which hadn’t occurred before on earth.

Here are two such signs of the times:

The Re-Emergence of Israel as a nation.  The Bible mentions this as possibly a key sign of the final days.  Like as prophesized in Ezekiel 37, God promised to bring the Jews out of exile. He promised to bring them back into the land of Israel.   If that is so, if literally interpreted, then Israel re-emerging as a nation has taken place.  It came about right after World War II, though following their trying Holocaust period.  Since God has originals ties to Israel, we would think this is a noticeable development.

Yet, there could be a different interpretation of the Dry Bones vision of Ezekiel.  If the prophesy is about the Church being raised up as the new Israel, in the power of Jesus (its Founder), where and when an elect people are brought back into existence at Jerusalem (where the Church began) by a New covenant fulfillment–then the prophesy has been in place and ready for its Glorious fulfillment.  In the prophesy, it says: “O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:11-13 (NLT)  The Church is a people who are alive again, born again, into the start of eternal life.  Though we still experience natural death, we know that Jesus promises us to all have our graves opened on The Last Day for us to be given “resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”  *(so says N.T. Scripture and our Creed)

Another Sign of The End: The Dramatic Increase in Travel and Knowledge
In a vision, God revealed prophetically to Daniel that in “the time of the end,” travel and knowledge will increase: “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” Daniel 12:4 (NLT)    Let’s consider this two-fold thing.

At the time the Book of Daniel was written, horses were the world’s the fastest mode of transportation, which remained until the train, plane and automobile. Now we move about on the earth quite quickly and freely.  Today’s world is definitely not “the way it’s always been.” Frequency and speed of travel have markedly increased!
What about knowledge? In Daniel’s time, few people received a formal education. In fact, basic literacy was a foreign concept to all but an elite minority of the world until the past 100 to 150 years. Yet, in the past century alone, human knowledge of science, biology, technology, and countless fields of endeavor has exploded. And the advent of the Internet has created a worldwide archive of human knowledge that far exceeds even the wildest dreams of the great ancient civilizations. Is humanity’s knowledge base today “the same as previous generations?”  Nope.  That word in 2nd Peter (which we wrote of in the top of this blog) tells it right.   We are moving forward and rapidly to the Day of the Lord!

In the next blog, we will consider two more of the Signs of the Times.   One is of the sign of false messiahs/anti-christs and the other is the birth-pang signs of the earth reeling from its long-continuing broken state.  Be prepared for an even-longer blog than this one.  I got into the topic, borrowing from a source a blog reader sent to me. thvk6431l8  The poster here is someone’s end times advice!

 

‘Looking for a sign?

Maybe you thought I might have pointers here on receiving signs from God…  Well, in that department, I would start with fully recognizing and experiencing God in the Sacraments of the Church.   They are saving signs of supreme good.

Now, in having an amusing time here, about earthly signs (yes, actually public signs), here’s a few that I think are funny ones.   imagesX739BVGFfunny-signs-gas-station-wallingford-chevron-seattle-propane-thumbimages1Z3S0FF5images2G64XAIFimagesimagesee imagesCH7UKHB1

Sunday Feb. 12 The Appeal, Lincoln, Grace

IMAG0982_1It is the weekend for the Cardinal’s Appeal.   We will have pledges made at all Masses today for this annual collection.   The Cardinal has sent his cd homily for us to listen to —before the pastor’s explanation of the process of participating in the Appeal.

(Thus, I did not write a Sunday homily.)

I did preach on Saturday, but it was in a funeral Mass for Bill Newman.

Yet I always have a few thoughts running around in my head…

Today in American history it is President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday:  Feb. 12th.

As we discuss the meaning of Grace this year in the Church, it would be right to share an illustration from this great president on his protest of slavery and how his concept of God’s grace was pretty keen about it all– following the Bible’s guidance.

Abraham Lincoln went to a slave auction one day and was appalled at what he saw. He was drawn to a young woman on the auction block.  The bidding began, and Lincoln bid until he purchased  her—no matter the cost.   After he paid the auctioneer, he walked over to the woman and said “You’re free.”

Free? What is that supposed to mean?” she asked.

“It means you are free,” Lincoln stated, “completely free!”

“Does it mean I can do whatever I want to do?”

“Yes,” he said, “free to do whatever you want to do.”

“Free to say whatever I want to say?”

“Yes, free to say whatever you want to say.”

“Does freedom mean,” asking with hope and hesitation, “that I can go wherever I want to go?”

“It means exactly that you can go wherever you want to go.”

With tears of joy and gratitude welling up in her eyes, she said, “Then, I think I’ll go with you.”

 

This story illustrates what God did for us.   We are bought with a price and it was costly– in that Jesus gave His body and blood for us.   And once that purchase was made, He decreed us free.

John 8:36  says: “So if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!”

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