I just downloaded Catholic singer/songwriter Donna Cori Gibson’s latest single FREE! She’s giving away the first song from her new album \”The Way of the Cross – a song for each station\” for free, but only for a limited time so download it while it’s still available.

It’s worth a listen. Download it here:

http://donnacorigibson.com/FreeDownload1.html

 

Ok, I admit it.  I haven’t blogged in a while.  The problem is, I have way too much going on.  Kids, Parents, Work, Stuff around the house, it just seems to pile up. Today,, I looked at my calendar and noticed Lent is just around the corner. “Didn’t we just put away the Christmas decorations?” I hear myself say to no one in particular.  

Suddenly I realize that I have less control of everything then I like.  I also realize I’m trying to hold on to everything and make it all work the way I want.  In the end I can’t.  There are too many moving parts. That’s when I need to stop and remember who’s really in charge. 

The priest at church last Sunday gave an incredible Homily.  He pointed to all the turmoil in the Middle East.  He said that dictators always want the population a little nervous.  If they are worried about where their next meal is coming from, they will be too focused on that to cause the dictator much trouble. 

Christ, on the other hand, wants us to be still, to be at peace, to not worry.  If you remember the reading,

Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? 
27 And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit?  28 And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. 
29 But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. 
30 And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? 
31 Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? 
32 For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. 
33 Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.

The priest asked each parishioner to ask themselves – as they left the building, “Is Christ my King?”  If the answer is “yes” then seek His kingdom.  If Christ IS your king, then the Father knows your needs, you do not need to worry about tomorrow.  That doesn’t mean you don’t need to work. It is more a matter of where your priorities are.  Work each day trying to accomplish the Father’s will in your life, whatever it may be.  Then, be at peace, God knows your needs – trust in Him.

The Magi.  The gospels only offer brief glimpses into the life of Jesus.  Why are the magi important enough to be included in the gospels at all.

  Some people would think it silly to travel anywhere from 700 to 1900 miles depending on the route to visit a toddler.  Once arriving, give some pretty unusual gifts and then returning.  If you think about it in those terms, it leaves you one very basic question – “What was that all about?”  No, sorry, I don’t have all the answers.  Somebody like Scott Hahn at SalvationHistory.org may be able to give you a wonderfully rich detailed explanation of the meaning of the magi.  (I’ve heard a talk of his on the topic and he does have a pretty interesting take).   A beautiful take on the circumstances and meaning of their visit likewise can be found in

 

I’ve heard a set of theologians talking about the magi as basically sorcerers who  after following the star left the tools of their craft at the feet of Jesus.  I’ve heard them described as both the dregs of society  and as great kings.  It is hard to say which, if either is really an accurate description.  The one thing that is pretty obvious, is that they weren’t Jews – Although Frederick Larson in the Star of Bethlehem (above) makes an argument that it is possible that they descended from Jews of the Babylonian exile.   If they descended from Jews, that would explain their interest in the newborn King of the Jews.  But, what matters the most to me, is that they were gentiles.  Why?  Because from Christ’s very conception and birth (again, see Larson above as well as his web site, http://bethlehemstar.net/ he called out to the entire world, to all of mankind, to you and I, gently asking us to come and see God’s Christmas gift to us.

Most people I know are lost in the rush of the holidays. More presents, more presents, more, more, more!  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy both giving and getting presents.  I really enjoy watching my kids on Christmas morning and the magic of flying paper and bows as they tear through the presents at lightning speed.  Once we get past that, we can really sit down and enjoy Christmas.  Its a frozen moment in time where we can spend time together as family and nothing else matters.  We can sit down and talk about family and friends who are far away.  We can play games and have fun.  We just enjoy each others company.

Most importantly, we can talk about baby Jesus – the bestest gift in the whole world.

As we go through advent and prepare for Christmas, I am resolved to spend more time pondering Christmas and the Father’s gift to us rather than pondering what presents I still need to buy.   In a way, that sounds selfish.  Focusing on what I’ll get instead of what I’ll give.  But, in reality, there is no greater gift than Jesus.  Any gift I give is merely a distraction from the One True Gift.

I love this time of year.  Really, I do.  I’m not someone who hangs millions of lights on my house and up and down every tree.  Sometimes, I think the electric company gets the biggest gift at Christmas.

Many people will find it odd, but I find it peaceful.  I leave for work before dawn.  On cold winter mornings, the stars are clear and bright.  I just stop and stare sometimes.  It is so beautiful.  There is no noise, no traffic, no people – just me, the universe and its creator.  I can’t help but stop and say, “Thank you, Father – what a wonderful gift!” 

God has given us so much.  Everyday is a new adventure.  We don’t know what will happen that day.  But we do know that it will be filled with gifts from God, both small and big.  As small as a hug from a child or as big as the universe.  Do we stop as often as we should and say “Thank you, Father!”.

I have been totally blown away!  It is unbelievable!  I’ve been trying to contain myself, but feel I need to respond.

No, not about what the pope said in the new book, “”Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times”.  I am amazed that very few people get this story right.  I understand the secular media missing this.  They aren’t expected to get the nuances of his statement.  BUT…I read an article in a Catholic paper that basically said that the pope said it is ok for condom use in certain circumstances.  Thats not what he said.  In fact he explicitly said it was not the case.  He said their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility.

Lets look at another example.  Not so charged with emotional issues.  Lets say a bank robber robs banks with a loaded handgun.  One day  he realizes that he considers it morally wrong to kill people so he decides to leave a round out of the chamber so the gun won’t accidentally hurt someone.   This also is a first step in assuming moral responsibility.  IT isn’t morally acceptable to take other peoples money or to threaten people with a weapon, even if not loaded.  But it is a first step.

The next step might be to realize that killing someone would always be wrong, so the robber would decide to rob banks with an unloaded weapon, so that there is no chance of accidentally hurting someone.  Later he decides to carry a note and just pretend to have a weapon.   Eventually, he may even realize that robbing the bank, in and of itself, is morally wrong.  So, he stops robbing banks and finds more legitimate means of obtaining money that are morally acceptable.  This is a path that the robber would walk over time bringing from a life that is wrought with peril, both physically and morally, to a morally accetable lifestyle.

So, why is this site called, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”?  Those familiar with Padre Pio (Saint Pio) will recognize his highly quoted exhortation.  Those not familiar with him are missing out on knowing one of the greatest saints of the last century.  This quote has special meaning to me.  It isn’t just a pious expression of trust in God.  It is a challenge.  It is a way of life.  It shows us how to order our lives and what is the natural outcome of that proper ordering.  Let me explain:

Pray – Prayer is first, as it should be in our lives.  Prayer is not the last thing we do when we run out of options and we have no hope.  Prayer is the first thing we do.  It gives us strength to carry on through the daily challenges of life.  The more difficult life is, the more important prayer is.  Our willingness to put God first and open ourself to his will, gives Him the opportunity to work through us.

Hope - The theological virtue that is stuck in the middle.  The one everybody forgets about.  The one that our Christian faith depends on.  No, I’m not saying it is the greatest Theological virtue, 1 Corinthians 3:13 gives that prominence to Love(Charity),  “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  So, Love is the greatest and everyone often focuses on, “You’ve gotta have faith!”.  Hope is rarely discussed.  When was the last time you were at mass and heard a good homily on Hope.  Yet, our faith, if it is truly faith, cannot help but foster hope in God’s mercy and love for us.  To me, that hope can be summed up in Romans 8:28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”  Or, as an Augustinian priest at Malvern Prep, once summed it up, “For those who love God and are called in His plan, everything works out for the good.”

Don’t Worry -  Once you have prayed to God, surrendering yourself to His will and you have allowed yourself to feel the Hope that is a reality of being a member of the body of Christ, why would you allow anything to worry you.  A quick note here, remember the summation by the Augustinian priest?  He said, “…everything works out for THE good.”  That is very different from everything working out for your good.  You may very well suffer.  God isn’t promising you an easy life, but God will bring good out of your suffering.  For example, lets say you have cancer.  You will suffer and may even die from the disease, but as others see you suffering, faith unwaivering, it could have a profound impact on their life.  It may lead to conversions among people you meet — that you will not even know of in this life.  That is the mystery of being part of the body of Christ.  We all have an impact on each other.