Posts Tagged West Virginia

Holy Week

Palm Sunday is our entrance into the holiest week of the year.  As a Church, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with the multitudes of people going before Him and following after Him placing branches on the ground and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

However, the Palm Sunday Triumph only led to His death on the cross on Good Friday.  But, we know that His death was not a failure, because it was through His passion and death that He conquered the world and entered into His Kingdom.

Sadly, Palm Sunday and Holy Week has become just another holiday week with a mostly secular attitude.  What used to be a week focusing on the suffering and death of Jesus to bring about the forgiveness of sins has largely become just another week of the year.  When we used to concentrate on the immense love of Christ by placing ourselves under extra penances and making sure our souls were right and filling the church on the high holy days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil; these have all but become something of a nostalgic memory.

We have gotten to the point where we say we believe in JC, acknowledge His love for us, and we say we love Him in return, but our outward display of these attitudes doesn’t reflect the same sentiments.  I’m sure many of you remember filling the church on Holy Thursday as we recalled the greatness of the gift of the Holy Eucharist as given to us by Jesus the night before He died at the Last Supper.  Then, on Good Friday, I bet there wasn’t a radio or TV heard in a Catholic household especially during the hours of 12-3 and people refrained from talking so as to think of the 3 hours of suffering as Jesus hung on the cross out of love for us.

I can remember people in the aisles of church on Good Friday in my own home parish and people would weep as the men of the parish carried the corpse of Christ on a bier around the church for veneration.  It’s time we return to these ideals as Catholics.  Place your palm branches some place where you can always see them, especially this week.

Let the palms remind you that Christ is the King of our families, that Christ is the King of our hearts, that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives.  And if we do proclaim Christ as our King, let us make time for Him in our daily lives, especially beginning this holiest of weeks.  Let this Holy Week be the reminder to us that He is the one with Whom we wish to spend eternity and let us show Him this by making Him the priority and primary concern of our lives.  This is the only way that we will ever find true peace and happiness in our confused and complex world.

** 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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Now You Can Be Perfect

This is a short story written a young teen in my youth group, Taylor Ambrose. She wrote this for “Teen Talent”, a statewide talent competition for the Church of God. She won first place in the short story division.

Delicate, beautiful, simple, yet extraordinary, I am a rose. People admire my piercing red, but I still give a modulated feeling to those who will accept it. My petals are set up in a maze, weaving in and out o each other. Not very complex, but it does make you mesmerized by how something that came from the dirt could be so beautiful.

Beautiful, or so they think, because when you go down, down to my stem, you back away. Why will you back away? My stem is stout, sturdy, and strong. Through the wind, and the rain, it keeps me held up. They don’t think or see that. They see thorns. My thorns are sharp, despicable, grotesque things that hang on my stem no matter what.

A small girl and her mom approach me. “Mom, look how beautiful.” She bends down to pick me up. I feel disdainful because the little girl noticed me. But then her mother promptly snaps. “No, get away from there! Those contemptuous little thorns will hurt you!”

The mother grabbed the little girl’s wrist and made her leave, not leaving a sliver of time for objection. All alone in the grass I stand feeling melancholy. The crisp night comes then early morning rises. A small figure rises over the hillside. The closer it gets the more I recognize her. It’s the small girl from yesterday. I cannot understand why she would be here. Her hands come gently to my stem. She grabs a thorn, then she strips it from my stem. Blood trickles from her finger but she doesn’t hesitate to grab the next thorn. Thorns are leaving while more of her fingers are hurting. After the last thorn is gone she says quietly, “There now, you can be perfect.” Sensitive, exquisite, simple yet extraordinary, I am a human. My body works together in critical ways. My hands can make dumbfounding things. My feet can take me places. And my mouth can sing alluring notes. My complex mind is full of knowledge; it is astounding how much my mind can store. I am amazing.

Amazing, or so they think, because when you look deep, deep into my head you will see that I sinned, numerous times. Sometimes it feels like 1,000 pounds are weighing me down because of my sins.

I start to walk aimlessly around a room. I pick up a book that is on a stand. Small words, many pages, but I read a story. It tells about a man, he appeared to be just like you and I. But he could do amazing things. He gave people their sight back, legs back, and healing anyone that asked. One night, the man let guards take him away, beating him and torturing him. He was in pain, was dying, but he didn’t refuse anything being done to him. Carrying a cross up a steep hillside, crying out in agony, the man was barely holding on to life. Nails are driven through hands and feet to hang him on the cross. After being mocked, abused, and not repairable for humans, He prayed, then He died. They put Him in a tomb; people had lost all hope that they would see Him again. But after three days He arose from the tomb as good as new! Then He ascended into heaven and watches over us always. All of this was done for me so that my sins can go away. I am astonished to say anything, but I can hear Him saying to me now:

“There, now, you can be perfect!”

Taylor Ambrose is a 7th grade student at Tucker Valley.

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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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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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A Higher Authority

We live in a time known as the postmodern era.  This has been described by David F. Wells in his book, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, as a time when many (if not most) people are living without a sense of understanding as to why this universe exists or why they are a part of it.  Each one is left to decide on his/her own the answer to these questions of cosmic significance.  When something as essential as the meaning of the universe and of life itself  is left to chance, it only follows that the concept of absolutes crumbles away.  The notion that absolute truth, for example, exists and that we can know it,  becomes seemingly ludicrous.

This mindset leads us to what can be defined as situational truth or dependent truth.  In other words, what may be true for me may not be true for you. I cannot hold you to my understanding of truth, nor can you can hold me to your understanding of truth. In today’s world truth is very fluid; it changes with people and time.

The claim of  the existence of absolute truth will not be tolerated in our world today. This intolerance has tremendous effect on our lives, not just as individuals, but also in society. Our purpose in this blog will be to discuss the effect postmodernism and its view of truth has in the spiritual realm. If there is no absolute truth, then we have no firm foundation upon which to stand.

The Bible makes it clear that there is such a thing as absolute truth, no matter what postmodern men and women might say or think. In fact, God’s Word is that Truth. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”  If we go back to the Old Testament we read the same thing. Psalm 119:160 says this: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your ordinances is everlasting.”

Absolute truth is found in God’s Word, and God’s Word does not change. So in the weeks and months ahead we will be addressing a number of issues, always keeping  in mind that we have a higher authority than people’s opinion or thoughts; God’s Word is our authority in all things because His Word is Truth.

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