Discernment

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Posted by on in Pilgrim's Passages

b2ap3_thumbnail_st.meinrad-church.jpgQuiet. Serene. Peace.  Those were the thoughts I experienced after attending Mass this morning with the monks from St. Meinrad in the deep hearth of southern Indiana.  I'm here for a couple of days on a retreat for pastoral musicians.  The church itself is an amazing structure of brick, plaster, marble and tile.  But what makes it truly "church" for me was worshiping with the monks and other guests at daily Mass. Chanting the psalm response and acclamations, centering myself to receive Christ.  The gospel talked about a mustard seed, about how something so small and so insignificant could grow into something greater than most plants.  

That is God's plan for all of us.  To be extraordinary in our ordinary life.  To engage in our own sacred space and experience Christ.  To be the living church in the world.  But in doing so, we need to cultivate our own mustard seed, giving it its own sacred space to grow, to be nurtured... to thrive...to live.

How is your sacred space?  How is your mustard seed growing?

Posted by on in Pilgrim's Passages

“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.”  Happy Feast Day St. Thomas Aquinas!

Posted by on in Pilgrim's Passages

Often I think of how fast I see the Christmas decorations come up during Thanksgiving or right after “the big game” and I think to myself, “Wow, that was quick!”.  But this year, I was quite bothered in the fact that right after Halloween, I saw Christmas decorations up! Yes, right after the Gorilla mask or the Sponge Bob costume went back into storage, out came the wreaths, the holly, the ivy, the Rudolph, the Frosty, the lights and tinsel and many other “Christmas” things.  I was quite dismayed because, you see, I’m a big proponent of Advent and of having those weeks to prepare myself to celebrate the birth of Christ.  In scripture, we are often reminded to “be ready” (Matthew 3:1-12) for we know not when the master will call us home.  And yet, we are so filled with anxiety and anticipation of “the ultimate gift” that we steamroll past Advent right into Christmas and forget any of the preparation that is so important to our spiritual lives.

So this year, I’m asking all of you to take the time and use this Advent Season of only 25 days to truly reflect on your journey with Christ.  Are you making time for Him?  Are you calling out to Him?  Are you being silent and allowing Him to speak to you?  Or are you telling Him, “Well, the Bears play in 15 minutes, after that I’ll say a prayer or two…”  If all we want for Christmas are two front seats to see the Lion King on Broadway… then we’ve missed the boat.

Use this time of Maranatha to prepare your hearts for the Christ Child- to bask in the season of Advent and to watch and pray (Matthew 3:12).  To silently reflect if you are on the same page as our Savior, and if you’re not, using the time to reconcile with Him and get back on track.  And don’t feel guilty, it’s not about “doin’ Advent time”, it’s about offering, about giving a bit of yourself and getting much back in return.

And remember… Christ will come into this world regardless or not if we are ready.  Christmas will be here before we know it.  But before we open that present we’ve been shaking for two weeks, before we sing “Over the river the through the woods…”, before we even make that return trip to Walmart to return the bright pink and purple tie we received from Aunt Edna, let’s take the time to render our hearts unto the Lord.

Think about it, pray about it, and then just do it. 

Prepare ye the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Christmas comes but once a year, but Advent also does as well.

Posted by on in Pilgrim's Passages

All too often we get caught up in the “Oh, Woe is me!” syndrome where we think we’ve have been dealt a “bad hand” in this life of ours.  All the failures, the frustrations, the “downers” of the day, week month culminate in an exasperated sigh as we try to make sense of it all.  Why is this happening?  What have I done to deserve this? Why, why, why me!

And yet the Master calls us and comforts us.  He motions to us and then wraps His arms of grace and mercy around us.

He speaks: 

” My child, I love you and will always love you”.  I will not give you anything more than you can handle.  But handle it with me, as I am always ready to guide, to direct, orient you in my ways.  Celebrate your life and know that you are blessed beyond measure”.

In those times of frustration, I feel a calming sense in knowing that I have been blessed with many good things.  A wonderful and awesome wife and four incredible kids, all of which who love me regardless of how many times I ask them to clean their rooms, mow the lawn, do their homework before attacking the next adventure on the X-box or 3-3 basketball game outside.  I am blessed with a great extended family of which I truly call my mother and father-in-law “mom” and “dad” respectively.  I have been given many opportunities to preach the Gospel through music and that ministry has continued to uplift and deepen my spiritual growth.  I celebrate today as another day that God given me to His light bearer, kingdom builder, and Emmaus traveler.

I have come that you may have life and live it abundantly (John 10:10).  There’s a lot expected of us in this world by our Savior, and yet He tells us in John, that if we truly trust Him, and count on Him, he will bless us and give us an abundance- we just got to believe it!

This week, say a quick prayer to God and thank Him for the many blessings He’s given you.  And don’t despair or get caught up in the “woe factor”- the best is yet to come!

SEEK.  TRUST.  KNOCK.  CELEBRATE.

Have a great week!

God bless you and your journey.

Tony

Posted by on in Pilgrim's Solace

b2ap3_thumbnail_morning_sun.jpgBlessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has come to His people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour, Born of the house of His servant David. Through His holy prophets He promised of old, That He would save us from our enemies, From the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers And to remember His holy Covenant.

This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham: To set us free from the hands of our enemies, Free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight All the days of our life. You, My child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, To give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. 

In the tender compassion of our Lord the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and will be forever. Amen.

…from the Canticle of Zachariah

I always loved this prayer as it gives me hope everytime I pray it.  I think about a God who blesses us abundantly with so many things.  Whose generosity goes beyond our scope of reasoning and whose love abounds far greater that we can ever imagine.

DenariusAs I was praying this prayer in my morning recitation of the Office of Readings in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I started feeling chills regarding how immense God’s grace is there for me.  Even though my journey on this road is filled with both joys and strifes, hills and valleys, I am confident that my God is present in my journey.  Just a couple days ago, the mass readings spoke about the parable of the workers in the vineyard (see Matthew 20:1-16).  In this parable, the master needs workers to work in his vineyard, and so he finds some at 6 AM and asks them to work in the vineyard for one Denarius.  After awhile, he goes out again at 9:00 AM and searches for more laborers to work in his vineyard.  Then he repeats the process over and over again at 12:00 PM, 3:00 PM, 5:00 PM and finally at 6:00 PM.  At the end of the day, he brings in the workers who worked at 6:00 PM and gives them one Denarius.  The workers who worked earlier (especially the ones who worked at 6:00 AM) are extremely happy thinking that they’ll be paid more that just one Denarius… but to no avail.  When each of them come to receive their wage, they get, in fact, just one Denarius.  Immediately a “grumbling” arises amongst those workers but then is silenced by the master who says whole heartedly, “Do you begrudge my generosity”?

Many times in life, we do the right thing, however, many times in our lives we find ourselves asking for “reasonable payment” for the right thing we do.  An honest day’s work expects an honest day’s wage.  But here is the twist when it comes to God.  We have been given work to do in His vineyard and we come to the vineyard based upon our own free will and choose to work there (whether it be at 6 in the morning or 6 in the evening).  Yet we are not working for a certain stature of eternal life with God, we do not say to ourselves, “Well, Tony, 100 good deeds should equal a place in the penthouse apartment in Heaven”.  No, most certainly not, we are all working to get to Heaven.

And whether we come to this epiphany during our early years (6:00 AM) or during our twilight years (6:00 PM), God doesn’t mind, he accepts us all.   In Luke 15:1-7, The shepherd and the community rejoices that the sheep is found.  God wants us badly to be with Him in Heaven.  That’s why he sent His only Son to die for us so that we could live.  Far be it for us to judge one another and say to one that they are unworthy to enter the kingdom.  Face it, we all are unworthy… but Christ is the key.  He is the gate, the door, the entrance to unlimited grace and mercy and salvation through Him and there lies our hope (John 10:1-10).

So how do we get there?  What’s the plan? What’s the path?  All of us have different paths in our lives, but we all can communicate with our Savior through prayer.  Take for instance the opening prayer of this post.  The Canticle of Zachariah.  It talks about how great and blessed a God we have who has come to take away the darkness in this world and fill us with eternal light.  I especially love the final words of the prayer as it gives me a good focus to begin my day:

“In the tender compassion of our Lord the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, And to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

That tells me, that as I labor in the vineyard for my one Denarius to have hope, because my labor will never be for naught, rather, I will receive the fair and just wage aportioned to me by the Master if I continue to trust, and hope and believe in Him.  And the “vineyard”, the world, will come to know Christ and his salvific promise as I lead all He puts in my “plot” closer to Him.

How do you pray?  I tried something a couple of days ago which had an incredible effect on me.  When I was praying, I opened my hands upward instead of clamping them together.  For me it did two things, it put me in a posture of surrender, full surrender to God’s will, and it also lifted all my trials, my setbacks to Him who is our Redeemer and Healer.  It was a wonderful excercise and I was overcome with emotion when I did that.  What a blessing I received when I finished my prayer.  He truly is an awesome God.

Try it sometime when your praying.  Open your hands upward and close your eyes and tell God how you’re doing in His vineyard.

And remember, it’s not at what time we started working in the “vineyard”.  It’s the “one Denarius” that we’re all working towards that is the most important aspect of our earthly lives.

So… are we ready to give it our all…for “one Denarius”?

I am.

Posted by on in Pilgrim's Psalm

prayerI asked God for strength that I might achieve.

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things.

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy.

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

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