Archive for March, 2011

What if?

The great “what ifs”, there are so many of them. “What if” is used to inspire writers. “What if” is often used to get us to think. There are websites and blogs that are dedicated to just looking as the “what ifs” of the world. Some of them are very interesting.

What if money grew on trees? If that were true, there would be a lot of us climbing trees. And what would we tell our children when they come asking for money, since we couldn’t give them the old, “Do think money grows on trees?”

Another one I like a lot is, “What if the world was flat?” Well if that were true our friend Christopher Columbus in 1492, would have been looking for a reverse in that boat of his when he reached the edge.

And my favorite is what if we could change the world? (We’ll come back to this one later).

What if, can make us think, and despite what my wife may say, I do think, well at least sometimes I do.

Recently I was reading in the Book of John the 20th chapter…

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Did you notice that last sentence? “Then they went home.” What if they would have stayed at home? What if they had never told others about Jesus, his teachings, his sacrifice, his resurrection? If they had stayed home, we wouldn’t have the New Testament, because no one would have known about Jesus.

But they didn’t stay home, later in that same chapter we read that Mary told the other disciples. And then they told others. They told the world about Jesus and his teachings, they told the world that Jesus died on a cross for everyone, and that he arose and lives. Then it was written down for everyone in what we call the “Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Now the “what if” we need to think about is, what if we stay home and don’t tell anyone? Just like Mary, Peter, and John many of us know about Jesus, his teachings, the crucifixion, the resurrection. But are we taking what we know and staying at home?

There are a lot of hurting people in our world, there are a lot of people that need to know Jesus, and they need to know that he lives. What if we told them? What if we convinced them of the truth, that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them?

What if we did that? Remember that question that I said we would come back to, “What if we could change the world?”

If we would tell the world about Jesus, we wouldn’t have to ask the question, “what if we could change the world?”

We would change the world.

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Where is your hope

Hope can be defined as: to expect with confidence a feeling that what one desires will happen. The question today is what or whom do you place your hope or confidence in? Is it the stock market, job security, government or variety of others things that we think will save us or give us a sense of security. Everyday it seems we are inundated with news from around the world and in our own country of pending doom, chaos and unrest that could rock us to our core. Many are losing jobs and the cost of living is increasing at an alarming rate giving us a sense of hopelessness.

The Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; He never changes! He is a rock you can stand on, the one who can calm you in the storm, and can still your heart when fears, doubt, and uncertainty overwhelm you. What a comfort in these troublesome times! But I’m here to tell you, my friend, that there is no one else whom you can place your complete faith, hope and trust in.

Join me today in placing your faith in the One who can give you security and hope for the future. I placed my life my faith in Jesus many years ago and He has never failed me.

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Royalty

What is your favorite bible verse? One day I was reading my bible, when I came across this verse.

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:4-7(NIV)

This passage excites me. As an heir, I get to inherits that is of my father. So what does my father have? According to Revelations, Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” So that makes me an heir to the king.

I often ask my youth group, “That if we are an heir to the king, then what does that make us?” Their response is, “That makes us princes and princesses.” So, if we are princes and princesses, then how should we act? We should act like the royalty that Christ has made us. After all, we were created in the image of God himself.(Genesis 1:26)

Don’t ever feel like you are worthless, that is not how God sees you. He sees royalty.

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No Such Thing as a Powdered Christian!

The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance.

Biologists call it metamorphosis to describe such changes as when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly; the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

Fr. Anthony DeMello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man.  “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’  As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to:  ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’  Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been.  My one prayer now is:  ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’  If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”

Now, this is the kind of transformation or metamorphosis that we are invited to during Lent.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can transform our lives by renewing them during Lent, and to radiate the grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives.  The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain reminds us that the way of the cross leads to resurrection and eternal life, and that the purpose of Lent is to help us to enter into those mysteries.

To have this reading of the transfiguration of Jesus on this second Sunday of Lent makes me think of the four last things:  Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment. The transfiguration of Jesus is like the sneak preview that we get at the movies.  It’s the preview of what Heaven really will be like and we can tell from the response of the 3 apostles that it left them speechless.  Peter didn’t want to leave; he wanted to build three tents so that they could just stay there and remain in the moment with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  But, they are quickly reminded that they must come down off the mountain and live life with all of its suffering and trials and temptations.  On this second Sunday of Lent, those 4 last things are a good reality check for us to climb the holy mountain of the Lord.  It’s like what the old man recognized at the twilight of his life when he realized that his days were numbered and found that his one prayer was:  “Lord, give me the grace to change myself,” so that he doesn’t waste the limited time that he has left.

The 4 last things and the transfiguration have a lot in common in this sense.  What is death?  The separation of the soul from the body.  Why does this matter?  Because of Jesus.  He is all that matters when we die.  While we are on earth, food and the opposite sex and bill collectors and the plumbing leak in the basement matter a lot.  When we die, there is only One Who matters:  JC our savior.

Did you die in sanctifying grace, (i.e. no mortal sins) obeying God’s commandments, and living in charity?  The point is that it’s not the case that we accept Christ once and then we are forever saved; once saved, always saved!  NO!  Our salvation is dependent upon our obedience to Jesus Christ.  We can easily fall out of grace – it only takes one mortal sin to do that!  Spending one’s life trying to have fun, seeking pleasure, and ignoring the commandments of God makes death a very unpleasant thought.  However, a devout Catholic living in the state of grace, without a habit of committing mortal sin, uses the thought of death and judgment to keep himself in check and to continue to transform his life for the better in preparation for Heaven and further distance himself from hell.

That’s what the transfiguration of Jesus is all about.  It is that glimpse of what we all want our eternity to be.  The problem is that we live in a society that wants instant satisfaction.  You may remember the comedian Yakov Smirnoff describing his arrival in the US from Russia and his lack of preparation for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores.  He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk; you just add water, and you get milk.  Then I saw powdered orange juice; you just add water, and you get orange juice.  And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to my self, ‘What a country!’”  Smirnoff was joking, but we make these assumptions about Christian transformation – that people change instantly at salvation.  But, we as Catholics call it transformation through repentance and renewal of life, deriving strength through the word of God and the sacraments.

We need to be thinking about the consequences of our actions in this life.  We need to recognize that we will be judged and there will be eternity in Heaven or in Hell depending on that judgment.  Thankfully, there is purgatory to clear out the things that slip between the cracks so that we can eventually get to Heaven.

What better time than Lent for us to really ponder these things so that we can seek the mercy of God, especially through confession to begin the transformation that we need to get us to Heaven.  There is no such thing as a Powdered Christian. A true disciple of Christ is not born by adding water to Christian powder.  There is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born.  They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations.  So, on this second Sunday of Lent, start working on being a first rate version of yourself and pray the one prayer that mattered to the old man in the story:  “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.”

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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What in the world is lent?

What in the world is lent? I was always confused when I heard about the season of lent. I would think, why are we observing “lint season”? What’s so special about that stuff in the corner of our blue jean’s front pocket? Or that stuff that gets caught in that screen on the dryer and prevents towels from ever getting dry?

Years later I found out that, “Lent” in the Christian tradition, is the 40 days leading to Easter, starting on “Ash Wednesday.” Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is to prepare the believer — through prayer, repentance, giving and self-denial — for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many, including me, have been focused on “giving up something for lent;” I guess that would fall under self-denial. In the past I’ve given up coffee, candy, and two years ago I tried giving up talking on the cell phone while driving. I thought that I was pleasing God, but last year I asked myself, ‘Is Lent a time of self-denial? Is that what Jesus wants?’ I’m not so sure. Maybe if the things we are giving up come between us and God, but I’m not so sure that giving up coffee, candy and talking on the cell phone are on top of God’s list of priorities for us.

I think God would rather us look at the things in our lives that separate us from him and our family. Sometimes it may be something that seems harmless, but we can become consumed by it and suddenly it’s a barrier between us and God. Its something I struggle with, I can become consumed with fishing, golfing, hunting, and other things and find myself not focused on God or my family (don’t believe me, ask my friends, I’m Mr. Obsessive). I think some of these things are what we may want to look at cutting down on or giving up for lent (and who knows, maybe even longer). I’m not saying God wants us to give up fishing or golfing completely. I’m saying that if it’s coming between us and God or our family, maybe we need to re-evaluate how much we are doing it. Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me”. Things that we put before God, can become like little gods.

Last Wednesday was “Ash Wednesday”, but it’s not too late for all of us to look at our lives and pick something that we can give up or cut down on for lent. But instead of coffee or candy, we can look at something that’s keeping us from God and our families.

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IGNITE

I am excited about this blog.  This comes at a time that I am preparing for a weekend youth retreat called Ignite. 

 Romans 12:11 says  “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”   The underlying Greek word for “fervent” is “zeo”, which means, “to be hot.”   We want ignite a passion among teens for God.

We started this retreat 2 years ago. The youth group did a devotional called “The Hardest 30 Days of Your Life” by Justin Lookadoo. It challenged them to examine their walk with God. In the middle of the 30 days the youth had to do a media fast. They abstained from TV, computers, and radio. The time they would generally devote to media, they would instead take that time to pray, read the bible and focus on God. To end the 30 days we decided to have a weekend retreat to worship, to start a fire within, to be hot for Jesus. This is our third year in hosting Ignite.

Ignite is open to all teens. It is FREE to attend. It is being held at Camp Kidd, outside of Parsons off Rt. 72. Sign in starts at 7pm on Friday and we will be staying the night. Check out will be around 7:30pm on Saturday night. This like a mini-church camp. There will be speakers, a praise band, activities, games, food and prayer.

We want to have an impact on ALL teens in Tucker County, no matter were they go to church. We want to create a burning desire for Christ, to make a change in the community they live in. We weren’t called to blend in with the world, but to make a differnce in it. We ask this question, “what are you on fire for?”

If anyone is interested in attending Ignite, or know someone who might be interested. Go to the ECHOS youth group facebook page.

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Scriptures, Alive or Dead

Thomas Linacre was the king’s physician to Henry VII and Henry VIII of England.  He was a prominent scientist, he was founder of the Royal College of Physicians and friend of the great Renaissance thinkers Erasmus and Sir Thomas More.  Late in life he was given a copy of the Gospels to read for the first time.

The Bible, of course, was not being mass produced at this time since the printing press was just coming into existence.  So, the Bible was something that only the Church and the clergy had access to.  This was a time that saw many problems both inside and outside the Church.  Reading the 4 Gospels for himself, Linacre was amazed and troubled.  “Either these are not the Gospels,” he said, “or we are not Christians.”  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”(Mt 7:24)

The point is that there are plenty of very eloquent things that are said about holiness, but unless a person practices what they preach, it becomes nothing more than a lot of hot air.  To be a good Christian takes more than just prayer and fasting and going to Sunday Mass.  God has to find us faithful like another Abraham or Job in times of tribulation; when the rain is falling, the floods are coming and the winds of life are blowing against us!

In the first reading, (Dt 11:18,26-28,32) Moses warns the Israelites that they will be blessed if they obey the commandments of the Lord, but cursed if they reject God’s words and go after pagan gods.  The commandments can’t be something that we talk about or hang on the wall or post in front of buildings.  They have to be lived in our lives.  They have to be seen in the way we act day in and day out.  That’s what it means to build our house on the firm rock foundation.  We have to be more than just hearers of the word of God, we must be doers of the word of God.

The sad part of this is that I wonder how many of us are even hearers of the word of God.  Think about it for a moment.

I would venture to guess that the vast majority of Catholics only hear the word of God when they come to Mass on Sunday.  I would go even further and speculate that most of those people aren’t even really listening to the readings carefully enough to remember them when they leave Mass.  And if this is true, then how can we expect to put those words into practice in our lives.  We are more attentive to reading the newspaper or listening to the news on TV or reading all sorts of stories on the Internet then we are to listening to the Scriptures.  But, how in the world are we ever going to be able to be doers of the word of God unless we know what the word of God says?

I think part of the reasons are marriages are failing at such a high rate today is because people don’t have the rock foundation of the Scriptures to teach them what to do to be successful in their marriages.  Spouses don’t know that they have to put into practice loving each other the way Jesus wants us to love, forgiving each other the way Jesus teaches and becoming servants of one another the way Jesus was to everyone.  If we are a phony family with no Christian foundation, we will be fighting like cats and dogs.  Friends show up and we will be nice to them and kind to each other, but as soon as those friends leave, we can fall back into an icy cold relationship.

As a priest I get to see everyone on their best behavior most of the time.  But, when Fr. leaves, then we can get back to having fun!  But does that make us people who listen to the words of God and act on them or are we just Catholics on the surface with no real foundation in Jesus?

In schools, students will blame teachers, coaches, guidance counselors instead of taking responsibility for not having studied enough or practiced enough or met the dead lines that were clearly indicated.  Is that much of a rock foundation to stand on?  Every one of us is building a house. It’s a lifetime job to build a house of personality and character.  Everything we do, every word we speak, every thought we cherish goes into the structure of the life we build.

As Catholic Christians striving to have a strong foundation for our house, we need to be hearing and doing the words of Jesus.  That means that we ought to be LISTENING attentively to the word of God when we are at Mass and taking the time to read the Scriptures in privacy to allow them to become a part of our hearts and acted out in our lives.  We need to listen to the preaching and teaching of the Church and the Sacraments and the lives of the saints.  It is not enough to simply believe in Christ’s teachings.  If they are really the rock foundation of our lives, we must put them into practice.  Perhaps a good Lenten exercise might be to pick up the 4 Gospels and read them.  It might be a startling encounter where you say to yourself:  “Either these are not the Gospels, or I am not a Christian.”

 

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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