Give Up Everything?

This coming Sunday’s gospel ends with a statement that will shock you: “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” Another translation says, “None of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.” (Luke 14:33)

This is one of the hardest things we are asked to do. We work hard for years to get to a certain lifestyle. If we lose our job, we have friends praying for us so we don’t lose everything. Our culture dictates to us that we need more and more and more. There’s absolutely no end in sight. Many of us hoard our belongings and don’t want to get rid of them so we save them for years knowing we will never use them.

How are we to do this? I invite you to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this. It’s a worthwhile discussion to have. St. Ignatius said this: “The only reason to have or keep an attachment to something or somebody is if it’s in the service, honor, and glory of God.” (my paraphrase). So how can you keep everything so that statement is true for you?

God Bless and please leave your comments below.

 

 

Share

Take Up Your Cross

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

This is a very tall order. In fact it’s really impossible in today’s world. Who has the time for this? We’re just supposed to drop all of our responsibilities and walk away from everything? What about my goals and everything I want to accomplish for myself and my family? How am I supposed to balance all this?

These are good questions, and questions we should be asking ourselves regularly. This is not an easy life. In order to get along we have to continually ask ourselves these types of questions. We have to continually try to improve ourselves. The good news about this passage is that you don’t have to do anything. Jesus says to only do this if you want to follow him. If you don’t, then I guess it doesn’t matter what you do. But if you’re going to follow him, then follow him. Don’t do it half-heartedly.

So what does it really mean to take up your cross daily? I think there’s two ways to look at it. One way is to resolve to accept the fact that your life is miserable and you have to deal with it. There’s nothing you can do about it so why complain? Just accept it and deal with it. Try not to have too many interactions with people, because all you’re going to get is their opinion or advice. You don’t need people budding into your life anyway, right?

The other way is to accept it, but ask God to help you accept it. Look at the situation and find Jesus in it. Talk to others to get their perspective. Unite with Jesus in your life. There’s a beautiful scene in “The Passion of the Christ” where Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry Jesus’ cross. Simon wanted nothing to do with Jesus. He was with his family and didn’t want any part of this. He was traveling on the road, going somewhere with his family. Busy with his life. Is that you? Notice what happens next. Jesus moves next to Simon, locks arms with him and they walk to Calvary together. That’s how Jesus wants us to carry our crosses. With him.

This week I challenge you to ask Jesus how he wants you to carry your crosses. There are many ways; just listen to him for the answer. With us alone, it’s impossible. But with God, all things are possible.

Share

Forgiven

Happy Father’s Day everyone! I hope you were able to enjoy the day with your families.

The Mass readings for Father’s Day were perfect. In the first reading, David gets a message from God through the prophet Nathan for taking Bathsheba as his own and then killing her husband Uriah the Hittite. What does he get? Forgiven. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is having dinner with a Pharisee when a sinful woman comes in, interrupts the party, anoints Jesus, kisses his feet, cries and dry’s his feet with her hair. What does she get? Forgiven.

Who knows more about how to forgive than a father? After all, our Father in heaven is the greatest forgiver of all. But how many of us have someone in our lives who we haven’t forgiven or won’t forgive? We attend church, do all the right things, but don’t forgive someone who hurt us. Yet we stand before a forgiving God unwilling to forgive. And us Catholics, who believe that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is manifested in our bread and wine every Sunday, stand before him, receive him in our bodies and refuse to forgive someone. And then we expect forgiveness for ourselves. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Those were Jesus’ words, a directive from him that we repeat often but don’t realize what we’re saying.

In essence, Jesus is telling us to first forgive who we need to forgive, then come ask for forgiveness. This is a hard teaching I know. It’s one that I struggle with often. But I must not stand before the Lord and expect a gift from him that I’m not willing to give to others. In fact it’s already been freely given to me. I just need to pass it on.

Share

Arise!

In today’s Mass, the gospel reading was Luke 7:11-17. It’s the story of the widow in Nain whose son had died. Jesus was moved with pity and told her, “Do not weep.” Then he stepped forward, touched the coffin and said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” And so he did. Then Jesus gave him to his mother. The gospel says that “fear seized them all.”

For those of us that know the loss of a loved one, we know that fear would absolutely seize us. But so would Joy. We don’t hear about the mother and her son and how their life went on from there. I can imagine the celebrations! A sad funeral turned into a joyous celebration of life! Probably many days of celebrating, and hopefully praising God. Do you think they went back to find Jesus to thank him? Did they follow him and become his disciples? I would like to think so and hope that I would do the same.

We live in a different kind of world today. When death comes close to us we do weep, and sometimes bitterly. Sometimes not at all. But we do deal with it at some point in some way in our life. We don’t have Jesus or the prophets to bring our loved ones back. At least not in the way they did two thousand years ago. But we do have something. We have the words of Jesus. In fact, we have the Incarnate Word, Jesus alive in the pages that tell the story of his life! And even though ancient, they speak to us in many different ways, at different times and differently each time. Read that story and then think quietly and hear Jesus speaking to you. “Do not weep! Arise! Carry on!” And as he gave the man back to his mother, he will give you back to your life.

Share

Be There With Him

Happy Holy Week!

As I head off to Chicago for my son’s graduation from boot camp, I had to write a quick note about this wonderful spiritual week. In a recent session I had with my spiritual director I talked about being away for Holy Week. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to celebrate these days. I was really upset about having to be away and not being able to celebrate with my parish family. She suggested that I take the daily Gospel readings and put myself into the stories and to become a friend of Jesus and accompany him through all his struggles this week. Let him bless the bread at table, let him wash my feet, be with him in the garden, stand by him when he’s arrested and accompany him to court. Walk with him on the road to Golgotha and help him carry that cross. Just stay close to him and be with him through it all.

She said in a way I am doing that by going away. All I’m giving up to be with my son. To enjoy him and enjoy his company and be totally there. It’s a sacrifice that’s not even close to our Lord’s sacrifice. At the same time, be with Jesus in his struggles as he goes about his day.

With this guidance on my heart, I went to church on Monday night for a spirituality meeting and had the opportunity to spend time with good friends from church as we studied the crucifix in our main worship space. The leader of the night asked us to come close and kneel on the floor for a few moments and adore Christ on the cross. It was dark with two small lights shining on Jesus. One of our music leaders played piano and sang a beautiful song called “When They Crucified My Lord.”

Kneeling there looking up at Christ just overcame me. For a second I was there at Calvary witnessing the last moments of his life. Rain was pouring down and the drops were dripping off his hair. Steam from the rain was rising off his still warm skin but his breath was already gone. His sacrifice was monumental to me as my eyes filled with tears. It was one of the most powerful nights in recent memory that was a great prelude for my week. Even though I won’t be around my home parish, I will take that memory with me as I travel. I will also take this picture with me that I took later that night.

Jesus, Holy Eucharist Parish, Tabernacle, NJWhat about you? Are you going to let this week pass by just like every other week? I challenge you to do something different and pick someone in this story and become that person for the next four days. If there’s no one you can relate to, insert yourself into the scene and accompany Jesus on this road no matter where you are or what you’re going through. You’re relationship with him will flourish as a result and he will be with you like never before.

God Bless you all during this Holy Week and Passover.

Share

Faith Boot Camp

On Monday we sent 18 year old Matthew off to Navy Boot Camp in Great Lakes, IL. We had a large gathering on Saturday of family and friends to send him off. It was a great celebration for a great kid.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would rise up in me as a result.  After having dinner with him Monday night and taking him back to the hotel where all the recruits were staying, he was very somber. I knew he was tired but somber I wasn’t expecting. We texted that night a final good night and then I didn’t hear from him until he landed in Chicago about 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The text read, “Just landed in Chicago.” Four hours later he called. “I only have two minutes. I can write whenever I want which I will do. But I can’t call you for another 3 weeks. I have to go.” “Ok, goodbye. I love you son.” “Love you too.” Click.

So final. So cold. It was not the son I knew on the other end of that phone. For almost a year now he’s been excited to go into the Navy. When all his friends started college in August and September, he didn’t have much to do. He picked up more hours at his job at a local restaurant and got involved with the recruiting office activities. In a short while they put him in charge over a group of recruits and then in charge of all 25 of the recruits. He was excited and so was I. His true leadership shining through made me proud. But on the phone he did not sound himself.

I can’t help thinking about what it must be like for him. What bothers me the most is not being able to communicate with him. If it was just text messages I would be fine. But nothing. I’m sure I’ll get letters but they don’t know his address yet so we can’t write. I think about how out of his element he must be and I have no idea how he’s handling all that. And I can’t be there to encourage him. I will once I can write some letters but it stinks not being able to help him through this. All I can do is pray and for now that’s going to have to be enough. And it’s probably enough anyway if I can just get myself out of the way. I mostly pray that his experience doesn’t alter his spirit and that he has peace about his decision.

In a way, I’m grieving again. I’m grieving the temporary absence of my son whose light shines through all of us. I’m missing his love of nature, his love of animals and the outdoors, his fun spirit, and just having him around. And mostly, I’m grieving that his mom wasn’t here to send him off. I know she’s so proud.

The next morning, Tuesday, my 7 a.m.  Men’s Group prayed the Morning Prayer from Magnificat magazine. The Psalm for the morning was Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord, will you forget me? 

How long will you hide your face?

How long must I bear grief in my soul,

This sorrow in my heart day and night?

How long shall my enemy prevail?

 

Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!

Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death,

Lest my enemy say:” I have overcome him”:

Lest my foes rejoice to see my fall.

 

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.

Let my heart rejoice in your saving help:

Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,

Singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

God always gives me comfort when I need it! This psalm was handpicked for me. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time! How does he do that? I woke up that morning and didn’t want to go to the meeting. But I went and he had this psalm ready for my heart and he had my friends there ready to support me. I also know that if he answered my prayer, he’s going to answer the prayers that I’ve been praying for Matthew and the prayers that Matthew is praying about his decision and situation. And that gives me tremendous peace.

Lord God, thank you so much for the gift of your grace in my life and in the lives of those I pray for. And thank you for once again bringing me through your Faith Boot Camp. Amen.

 

 

Share

My Christmas Angel

His name is David. I met him in the men’s room at a Michael’s craft store during one of those awkward bathroom moments a few days before Christmas. “It’s cold out there,” I said as he was fixing his hat at the sink next to me. “It wouldn’t be so bad except for the wind,” he replied. From there a conversation happened that changed both of our lives.

As we talked I learned that he was homeless, living in a Motel 6 with his brother. He told me his brother was getting married soon and he didn’t know what he was going to do. He told me that he made bracelets to raise money. He told me he gives a lot of them away for free but sells them sometimes. I asked to take a look.

He opened his yellow plastic ShopRite bag and revealed hundreds of colorful bead bracelets with white dice spelling out “Jesus” and “WWJD” among others. They were neatly packed in clear plastic cases and sorted by color. Some were green and red for Christmas, others pink for breast cancer. I asked him how much he would sell them to me for and he said $2 each. So I bought 5 and he gave me a free one. He told me he uses the money to buy more supplies (at Michael’s) and also to save up for fixing his teeth as his two top front teeth were missing. I was relieved our meeting was over as we ended our conversation and went our separate ways.

During the next hour I ran into him 3 more times throughout the store, each time stopping to talk some more. He told me that he was bi-polar and had struggled with drugs and alcohol but was sober now for over 2 years. He said that all his problems started when his 3-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident and his life went to pieces. He made note to tell me that he wasn’t driving nor was he in the car at the time.

Each time I ran into him I became more and more interested in him. He told me about his journey of faith and accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior and he shuttered to think where he’d be today had he not found Jesus. His eyes were a deep, captivating bright blue, like that of the clear sky on a crisp day. They were filled with warmth and confidence as he talked. He told me that all he had was the big sweatshirt he was wearing and 3 t-shirts. No coat. He explained how hard it was to live the way he does and many times people would ignore him and pay him no attention. But somehow, he explained, he always had a place to stay, enough money in his pocket, and how thankful he was that things always worked out for him. His keen awareness radiated with gratitude.

As I checked out and paid for my items, I was overwhelmed with David’s story and his attitude of gratitude. I didn’t want to leave him. I packed my car, locked it up and went back inside. I found him again and gave him the last few dollars I had in my wallet. I asked him, “Do you need a ride somewhere? Can I take you to lunch? Do you need anything?” “No,” he said. “I’m fine, but I’ll walk with you to your car.”

As we walked I told him my story, about Joanne’s passing and raising our 9 kids without her. He was listening compassionately and intently with his blue eyes. When I was finished, he offered me his condolences and a pink cancer bracelet he made. “You can have this one. Hang it over your mirror in your car and when you see it remember me.” In exchange, I gave him a copy of my first book, The Vosler’s Nest, and told him that it was a book of encouraging short stories that would lift his spirits when he was struggling. I also gave him my card and told him to contact me if he was ever in trouble or in need of something. Then I surprised him (and myself) and gave him a great big hug. He said, “You made my day. It’s rare to meet someone as nice as you.” “Actually, you made my day,” I said. As I drove away he was walking through the parking lot and I rolled down my window and gave a great wave and he did the same.

On the way home my eyes were filled with tears and my heart filled with gratitude. You see, the day before I had been rushing around trying to get things done and I was already at Michael’s. But I was caught up in the holiday madness, hurriedly pulled in, parked the car and realized that I didn’t have time to go in and shop. I was angry because I had to be back home for an appointment and I wouldn’t make it unless I started home immediately. So I drove home, upset that I’d have to drive the 30 minutes back later in the day or the next day. I was mad because I wanted to be done with my shopping already. And I still had to food shop and make preparations at home.

But apparently God had other plans. He saw it fit that I should experience the true meaning of Christmas. So he arranged for me to come back and meet one of his angels. Christmas Angel David. A 50-year-old homeless man who changed my life by teaching me the power of gratitude and humility. So now as I drive around, I have in clear view on my mirror the gift given to me by a toothless, blue-eyed Christmas Angel who was grateful and humble in the midst of his poverty. Just as his Savior’s parents were on that first Christmas Day over 2,000 years ago.

Share

Merry Christmas!!

Here it is already, a few days before Christmas and we are all scrambling. There’s lots of last minute preparations to be done on the eve of a long weekend that culminates on Tuesday being Christmas Day. In our house we’re celebrating with family this weekend; doing last minute shopping; cleaning up the house and baking cookies. The kids are all excited about the weekend, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and a long, well deserved winter break hoping for some snow. The music is playing in all the stores, on the radio, and everyone for the most part is in a good mood. It’s a great time of year!

I get somewhat reflective around the holidays. I often think about the past year, what I accomplished and how I did. And I never really seem satisfied. For some, this time of year is the saddest either because they are missing loved ones or have fallen on bad times. Personally, I always look forward to Christmas while at the same time hoping things will be better than last year. I always want to be more prepared, be my best self, have everything in order and “fixed-up” so I look better to those around me. But I recently discovered that I really wanted to look better to myself. And even deeper than that, to look better to my Savior.

So I review my year and it’s not so much about what I’ve accomplished or what I’ve earned but about who I’ve helped. Was I a difference maker to others or not? How many people have I helped? Have I been a good steward with the Christmas story? Have I helped turn people back to their Faith? How about you? What things do you see when you review your year?

While this kind of review is good for showing us where we’ve gone off track, it’s almost futile to do it, and here’s why: We are striving for perfection, something we will never attain. Enter the Christmas story! If we were always our best, with everything in place and perfect, we wouldn’t need a Savior. But our loving Creator knows us better than ourselves. He knew the only way to save us from ourselves was to become one of us and live among us as the Greatest Teacher to ever walk the earth. He knew that he would have to make the ultimate sacrifice to make us clean. And that he did.

So as we rush around this weekend, let’s try and focus on what has really brought this wonderful season to light – The Birth of Jesus Christ! The Greatest Gift, the Christmas Star. Put the futility aside and go enjoy your family and friends. Realize that it’s ok to strive to be better, but more importantly, strive to become closer to our Savior who will add all those things unto you if you seek him first.

May the Peace of Jesus Christ be upon you and your loved ones this Christmas Season and all through the coming Year! God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Share

The Power of Peace and Gratitude

I love this time of year. Like most areas that experience natural disasters, here in the northeast we are thankful for what we still have after superstorm Sandy came through. There was much loss, but that was balanced with gratitude for what’s left. The stories I read on friends’ Facebook pages were amazing. People are reaching out, volunteering, sending needed items to hard hit areas and offering space for people to stay. It has been truly inspiring to be a part of and it’s up to us to keep it at the forefront. We forget easily because it only stays in the headlines for a short period of time. The need is still great.

As we approach Thanksgiving this week we have much to be grateful for. One of the things I like best is the fact that we can forget about our worries, even if for just a few hours, or maybe a few days. I liken it to eternity, the Kingdom of God. If you’ve read either of my books you know that I’m a believer in life after death and that we have to keep our focus on heaven, not earth. When I think of heaven I think of no worry, stress or anxiety. I think of Peace. And to me that’s what these coming Holy Days should be. Peaceful and thankful. Even if there are family situations going on and you’re not looking forward to seeing someone, remember peace, remember gratitude. Remember that we are blessed to live in a wonderful country full of abundance. And remember who these wonderful gifts are from.

From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Share

Finding God In All Things

I’m sitting at my daughter Emily’s gymnastics practice while some of my other kids are watching. I’m off to the side catching up on some work and tapping out this blog. This is the beauty of living in a mobile world. I can actually write this on my iPhone with a portable keyboard on my lap. It brings a whole new view to working from wherever you are.

There are some dangers to this though. I read a great quote on one of the dad’s twitter feeds I follow and it said: “Be a dad. Put down the phone.” What a great quote! So the danger with all this connectivity is that, as both mom’s and dad’s, we can miss out on a lot in life, and our children’s lives. I know a lot of people who won’t go near a smart phone for that exact reason. I wouldn’t be doing it myself if the gymnastics practice wasn’t 90 minutes long!

There are many great things you can do with a smart phone. Many of the applications I have on mine revolve around my spiritual life. From songs, to Mass readings to apps that keep my spiritual life focused. I can access Christian news, say the Rosary, read about the daily saints, listen to Christian satellite radio and read the bible. I can also access my twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to post or read updates. I also have an app through which I can post this blog right to my website from the phone. Pretty cool huh?

All this great stuff, but the danger still remains. In my daily scripture reading this morning I read from Luke 12, particularly verse 31. Jesus says to seek the Kingdom of God first and everything else we need will be given to us. While I’m not necessarily talking about specific needs today, I am talking about a specific focus or awareness. Our society is quick to remove God from public view and we tend to fall alongside and leave him behind while following everyone else. It would help us if we sought God through our daily lives. We don’t need to live the life of a recluse, although sometimes I wish I could, but we can shift our awareness to finding God in our everyday life. We do that by bringing him into all our experiences.

I speak to this in my newest video blog that you can see below. It’s something new I’m trying and I hope you enjoy it. By simply expanding our awareness to look for God in everything and great things will begin to happen and great insights will be granted to you.

Comment below and let me know your experiences!

 

Share