Tag Archives: Jesus

The Glorious Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Life has been better lately:

I’ve finally dealt successfully with a particularly nagging sin in my life.

My wife suddenly started sleeping in our bed again (that’s in, not with by the way).

I have a good chance of getting a better-paying job in the near future that would finally free my kids from the reduced-price lunch program at school.

So, driving home from work last week, I was pleased to know that it was the day for the glorious mysteries of the rosary.

Out of all four of my “rosary reports,” this is the only one where I was actually in a good mood beforehand. Below are my thoughts while praying the glorious mysteries last week.

 

1. The Resurrection – Fruit of the Spirit: Faith

The resurrection. Who wouldn’t be joyful after being reminded that Christ overcame death and is now reigning in glory? That would fire someone up right away. Jesus didn’t just conquer His fears and the painful agony of the cross. He conquered death. Satan has already lost!

If you’re still feeling down, don’t worry. Just ask God for an increase in faith. I do this all the time. Some days I can barely get out of bed due to my depression. All I have is my mustard seed of faith that God will help me; all I need to do is ask.

 

2. The Ascension – Fruit of the Spirit: Hope

After all that time with His apostles, Christ ascended into heaven to be with the Father. Just like the apostles, we have that special hope to be with the Lord after finishing our earthly lives.

It’s easy to have hope and to be happy when times are good. Right now this describes me. However, as little as a year ago, that depressed me. Why? Because I had the mindset of “what goes up must come down.” My hope was crushed because of my own lack of faith. These days, I rejoice when times are good. I feel that my walk with God has matured to the point where I don’t worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

 

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of God

Just like Jesus said, the Holy Spirit came to rest on the apostles and Mary. They were waiting in anticipation, and Jesus stayed true to His word as always.

God is love, and he is always reliable. I had the hardest time accepting this truth because my dad was the complete opposite. So many people, as I did, picture God as they do their earthly father because, well, that’s all we know. But God doesn’t belittle us or wait for us to mess up so that He can punish us.

If you’re having a hard time accepting the fact that God is love — love in its purest form — then ask Him to help you. You’ll be amazed when He grants you the faith to accept and believe in His true nature.

 

4. The Assumption of Mary – Fruit of the Spirit: Grace of a Happy Death

The next two mysteries don’t go over very well with Protestants. No, the Bible doesn’t mention the Assumption or the Coronation of Mary. But where in the Bible does it say that everything we believe has to come from the Bible?

Anyway, this doesn’t mean that Mary ascended into heaven by her own power as Christ did. As Elijah and Enoch in the Old Testament, it was God who made it happen.

I used to fear death. In college, I flew a Cessna 172 on weekends, but I quit after about a year because my fear of dying overtook my passion for flying. It definitely wouldn’t have been a “happy death.”

What is a happy death? I believe it’s when we’re old and full of years, having lived a fulfilled, selfless life with our loved ones around us, with the hope that we will soon be with the Lord. That’s the only kind of death that I want for my family.

 

5. The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven – Fruit of the Spirit: Trust in Mary’s Intercession

I consider going to heaven a fringe benefit of being a Christian. Some people are too focused on it, but, honestly, it’s usually not even on my mind. I guess it’s because God has blessed me with a wonderful life right now. I’m not perfect. The world isn’t perfect. But life is good.

This mystery reminds me that I, like Mary, will receive a crown when I (prayerfully) get to heaven. What a glorious day that will be! In the bestseller Heaven is for Real, a non-Catholic book, someone asked Colton Burpo if he saw Mary in heaven, and if so, what she was doing. He responded and said that Mary was next to Jesus and never left His side. Just like a queen mother in the Old Testament. I found that inspiring even before I was Catholic.

Mary is praying for us, just like my good Christian grandparents who are in heaven. Recently I asked a friend to pray for my mental health. I trust that her intercession was effective. How much more effective and trustworthy would the intercession of “the mother of [the] Lord” (Luke 1:43) be?

 

Unrelated Thought

With Thanksgiving coming up, everyone will soon be focused on food what they’re thankful for. However, take some time out every day to count your blessings. You’ll feel a lot better.

I wish you, dear reader, a wonderful day.

~t


Me(n)tal Health: Christianity, Depression, and Metal Music

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Before I finished my intensive outpatient program at the psychiatric hospital, I had to fill out a worksheet that was sort of a plan of action: list three individuals whom I would contact if suicidal ideation came back, list ten coping mechanisms for me to implement when I have problems, and list all things that would act as triggers for me.

Some triggers that I listed included people (the lady who I used to be infatuated with), places (the bar where I had carried out my plan), and things (music).

“Music?” the counselor had asked, perusing my worksheet.

“Yes. Certain kinds.”

“Such as…?” He lowered his glasses a bit and peered at me from the top of them, eyebrows raised.

“Just some types of metal.” I didn’t want him to know exactly. I needed my music. It was a coping mechanism!

“Scott. Spill it.” The counselor was a former drill sergeant in the army, so the next step probably would have involved shouting.

“Okay. Black metal.” There it was, out in the open. People unfamiliar with this subgenre usually assume it involves the musicians’ skin color.

The counselor continued staring at me. Explain! his eyes were saying.

“It’s, uh, dark, gloomy, and anti-Christian.” I averted my eyes from his.

“Scott, you are Catholic. Why would you listen to that?”

I wanted to tell him that black metal lyrics were usually written in Norwegian or Swedish, so I couldn’t understand them anyway. I wanted to tell him that I connected with the raspy vocals, insane drum beats and eerie walls of guitar noise. I wanted to tell him that the inverted crosses and pentagrams were purely for shock value. But I didn’t.

After I was released from the outpatient program, I quickly lost all desire to listen to black metal. Is it truly satanic? Is it anti-Christian? Is it steeped in pre-Christian Scandinavian paganism? Yes, yes, and yes.

Am I being judgmental like the fundamentalists who burn virtually all kinds of records in bonfires? No.

Sounds like it to me.

Well, then here would be my (hypothetical) response: In any search engine, enter the term ‘black metal,’ then look at the satanic imagery, scan some of the lyrics, and read about the beliefs, practices, and/or criminal acts of a lot of these bands.

It’s not judgmental if it’s fact.

Anyway, last night I received a brief text from a friend with whom I have had zero contact with for the past year. He’s extremely intelligent, has a high-paying job in the IT industry, and is a loving husband and father of two.

Besides the latter point, we also have had one other thing in common: We both loved extreme metal including black and death — and other sub-subgenres that I’d rather not get into.

Hey, Scott. How are you doing?

It was good to hear from him, so I happily replied.

Then another text from him: Do you want to meet me at the Slayer* show next month?

Uh-oh. One of my all-time favorite metal bands (up until 12 months ago) was touring again?! Then I tried reasoning with myself: Slayer has been around forever. The members are all fathers, and the band has become so commercialized. They sell Christmas ornaments with the band logo on them, for cryin’ out loud!

Looking back, I can’t believe that I had considered it. Commercial or not, stage theatrics or not, stepping into the world of Slayer, even for just a few hours, would take me back to that dark, miserable place inside my head.

Not to mention the fact that the band still uses satanic imagery:

Credit: slayer.net

I politely declined, and we mentioned that it would be good to meet up again at some point. I felt a bit guilty, though.

There are two reasons why I stopped listening to certain types of metal:

1. It damages my relationship with God.

Being a Christian means dying to self and living for Christ. He has a special plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). In order for God’s will to be done in our lives, we have to give ourselves over to Him.

Black metal — and other types of extreme metal — has turned me off because it goes against everything that God desires for me.

I don’t want to befriend someone who is constantly talking bad about my wife. When a person begins to know the joy and riches of the Lord’s grace, worldly desires pale in comparison.

2. It damages me.

In my very first computer class back in college, one of the first things we learned was GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). I used to be so confused as to believe that the darker the music, the more it would make me stronger. That was a lie straight from the depths of hell. The music and the live shows were feeding my negative thinking, and I didn’t even realize it.

The forces of evil are powerful indeed. Don’t open yourself up to its influence. Personally, I don’t want to be antisocial and depressed anymore. Believe it or not, some people actually do want to be miserable; I know because I used to hang out with them.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Bible passages:

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus… (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

~t

* Slayer is considered a thrash metal band.


How I Ruined My Family’s Sunday Afternoon

I couldn’t see a thing. All I knew was that the room was about 8′ x 5′ (2.4 m x 1.5 m). I sat there with my legs folded under me with my eyes closed. My mind wasn’t working; only the heaviness of guilt and regret was with me in the darkness. This was my punishment. I had it coming. How I wish I could take back everything I did. I didn’t want to leave this pitch-black cell, though.

After being frozen in place for what seemed like hours, I curled up on the floor, using an old musty cloth as a pillow. I didn’t want to stretch out; it would have been too much of a luxury, plus my feet would have been near the door. I never expected to drift off to sleep, but it had been an emotionally draining experience.

It all happened in a flash. One moment, I was checking my email on my phone, and the next minute, the fight broke out with no warning. They were going at it with everything they had. It’s a prison fight, I thought with horror. How could it be happening? What caused it? And right under my nose? How dare they!

After the bigger one got the smaller one down and began hammering his back with right-left combinations, I snapped.

It was one thing I lived in fear of, even as a dedicated, faithful Christian. The beast inside me reared its ugly head once again and took over. I got in each boy’s face and screamed at each one. “What are you doing?! You will not fight while I’m here! You,” I said, looking at my seven-year-old. “Don’t you realize that he is only five? Why were you beating on him like that? Huh?!”

“Scott, stop. You’re getting carried away.” Ayako, my wife, tried to calmly intervene.

“Don’t interrupt! I’m in the middle of disciplining them!”

“But, you’re yelling–”

“Didn’t you see it?! It was like a prison fight!” Now I was yelling at my wife.

I don’t remember what happened next. I was in such a crazy state of mind.

I used to punish myself by striking myself in the temple, cheek, and forehead. I was doing it again. Wasn’t all that crap behind me?

I had one of those profound moments during Mass earlier in the morning when my soul cried out to God. I was in up to my neck in a certain type of sin, and I couldn’t worship the Lord like I usually did.

That’s what sin does. It makes you think that once is enough. Instead, the cycle begins. Like a drug addict trying to go straight. One little snort or injection and everything will be okay. Just one fix.

But that’s not how sin works. The devil knows that one little slip and he’s got you. The feeding of the addiction happens all over again. The cycle is torture. Even St. Paul struggled with sin: Even though his mind said no, his flesh said yes. I always seem to forget about the rest of that verse.

His answer is to turn to Christ.

God told me in the middle of Mass that I kept falling because I was legalistically trying to avoid sin. What I didn’t realize was that I was using my own power. God reminded me that I must avoid sin out of love for Him and not because of myself.

When God speaks to me, I don’t mean that He speaks audibly inside my head like I’m a schitzo. It’s more of telepathy for lack of a better term. His Spirit connects with my spirit on a deep, primal level. I don’t even have to think of a reply; my soul responds automatically.

So there I was, my heart and soul transformed and touched by the hand of God. After Mass, as everyone cleared out, I knelt down in the pew and continued praising God and thanking him profusely for His gift of faith and forgiveness through Christ. Normally I get distracted and not pray after Mass, but I was deep in communion with the Holy Spirit yesterday, and nothing could divert my attention. How wonderful it was!

So how did I go from that mountain-top experience with God to being curled up in the fetal position in this dark, cramped room? It felt like my brain was swishing around in my skull; the dull pain was making me sick to my stomach. You deserve it, Scott. Serves you right for treating your two little buddies so horribly.

My oldest son is very sensitive and gets his feelings hurt easily. He is excelling in second-grade reading and math. I am so proud of him. My youngest son is in kindergarten, and all last week he and one other student had the privilege of sitting at a special table in his classroom reserved for exceptional students. The little rascal didn’t even tell my wife or me, but that’s how he is. Very humble.

The three of us love playing soccer in the backyard after dinner. Both boys are playing in a fall soccer league now, and my youngest is the star player on his team. He gets the majority of his team’s goals each game. My two little buddies are the pride and joy of my life.

Seeing them both break down into tears as I screamed at them hit me like a sack of bricks afterward. When my rage was in full force, though, I wanted them to cry; I wanted to see their remorse and for them to fully understand how fighting would not be allowed.

I try very hard to be the best father that I can be. I love my sons more than I love myself. If they’re still hungry when we eat at home or at a restaurant, I am quick to share my food or dessert with them. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have shared with my wife. My food was mine!

I sometimes get angry with my sons for little things. Yesterday morning we had a fun day at the park. My kids love riding their bikes through a nature trail, stopping periodically to explore a creek or a wooded area that looks interesting. Yesterday, I took the photo at the top of this post It was in a wide-open field at the park. As I was trying to figure which angle of the log to photograph, my oldest son sneaked up behind me and yelled boo. He was laughing, having fun because he scared Dada. I responded by yelling at him not to scare me like that. He went away dejected.

My right shoulder and back were killing me from spending so much time on the floor in the small, dark closet. I turned over, tossed away the old cloth that was my pillow and roughed it some more. The more I was uncomfortable and in pain, the more I could atone for my behavior. In shorts and a t-shirt, the floor was feeling cold, but I was determined to keep lying there; hopefully I would catch a cold and suffer for several more days.

God, I whispered, help me. Help me in this situation. I created such a mess. Then I thought about how every action of mine, either positive or negative, affects my whole family. Just like when I was young. My father’s mood affected all of us and ruined so many happy moments. It tore me apart to see myself acting like my father who I still cannot forgive for leaving me nothing but rancid memories of my childhood.

I drifted in and out of consciousness in the darkness. Brief dreams floated through my mind. Suddenly I heard a female voice. It was soft and gentle. Perhaps it was an angel.

Scott. Scott. SCOTT.

Huh? I mumbled. Was I dreaming?

Get up. The voice sounded authoritative now.

No. I want to stay here.

Get up! The angel was yelling now. Don’t make me angry!

I was awake now, but I didn’t move. Stop yelling first.

Your sons are waiting for you to read to them!

It wasn’t an angel after all. It was Ayako, my wife. She is a tough little thing, so I knew it would be in my best interest to get up and go into the living room.

Before opening my bedroom door, I collected myself and prayed. God, you gotta help me. I let out a deep breath and opened the door.

My boys were on the sofa with their little books, waiting for me to read to them. “Dada! Come sit with us!”

They had forgiven me and were actually happy to see me. We read several books together, and then we played their favorite card game, Uno. My wife even came in from the kitchen and joined us for two games.

Later, after dinner, my sons and I went out back as usual and played soccer. A little while later, my wife came out for the very first time, and we played an aggressive but fun two-on-two match.

God had worked another miracle. Everything was back to normal, but I was still depressed and suffering from guilt.

I’m sure my family won’t forget what happened yesterday afternoon, but it was evident that they had forgiven me.

I don’t expect them to forget, though. How I wish they would.

Someday when my sons think back to their childhood, I don’t want my screw-ups to outweigh the fun times that we had.

I am still burdened by extreme guilt right now as I finish typing this. I had to take two Xanax tablets a little while ago to relieve the pain and agony inside of me. The pills didn’t quite do the trick.

I want to lock myself in a room somewhere because I am agitated despite the 2 mg of Xanax. I can’t do that, though. All I can do is rely on God, but I’m having a hard time surrendering right now.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Communicating with God

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week was very challenging. On Wednesday, I got into some sin that affected the remainder of my week.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain sins that, when I let my guard down and give in to, plunge me into the pit of despair. Unable to claw my way out, I start sinking deeper within the cold, muddy pit.

I know that God forgives me; I ask his forgiveness and (try to) repent. However, I find myself returning again and again to that filthy pit.

This is why I love the sacrament of reconciliation (commonly referred to as confession). With the power given to the priest by Christ (“Whatever you bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 18:18]), it’s as if I’m confessing my sins directly to Jesus who is sitting near me. What a powerful, electrifying experience to actually hear the words of forgiveness.

This past Saturday, I went to confession at my parish. I prayed fervently beforehand that the Holy Spirit would help me to pray the Act of Contrition from my heart, and that the Holy Spirit would fill me.

There is nothing like praying inside the church: various individuals kneeling reverently before the life-sized crucifix and the tabernacle beside it that holds the Holy Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ present before us.

After exiting the reconciliation room (“the confessional”), I always locate a pew in front of the altar, kneel, and immediately bow my head, reflect on my sin, and recite the prayers of penance.

However, instead of bowing my head, I knelt with my hands clasped in front of me, and my eyes were instantly transfixed on the body of Christ that hung on the cross. What’s going on? I was unable to move. It was one of those moments when The Lord speaks before I do.

At that moment, my mind was profoundly connected to God’s, and our conversation began:

Lord, since Wednesday, I…

Forget it. It’s in the past now.

Dear God, thank you for forgiving me…

You’re already forgiven. It’s time to move on.

The dialogue was over, but God wasn’t quite finished.

As I continued to gaze upon the crucifix, I had a vision of two long paths running parallel and almost touching. The left path was my life: I saw myself going through life working, spending time with family, and so forth. On the right path, rays of light that resembled water continually shone down the path and out of sight. I saw myself occasionally taking a step onto the right path, the rays of light/water washing over me like a horizontal shower. After a brief moment, I would step back onto the left path and continue my daily life.

The right path was God’s forgiveness. The Lord was showing me that Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, and His saving grace always exists and is close by; all I must do is take the step, wash myself in it, and carry on.

At last I felt that God was finished communicating with me, and it was time for my penance. I prayed one “Our Father” and ten “Hail Marys.” These aren’t just rote actions that we go through because the priest says we have to; the prayers help us to get our focus on God. The prayers came alive like never before, each word imprinted on my soul.

I have listed the two prayers here:

Our Father, Who art in heaven,

hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners now

and at the hour of our death. Amen.

~t


It Would be Great to Have a “Real” Marriage

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I usually don’t post thoughts that are off-the-cuff because, well, that’s not the way I like to write. As a college English teacher, I tell my students that brainstorming and making an outline are essential first steps in writing an essay.

But forget all that. This isn’t a stinkin’ essay.

All of you are aware that I am dealing with… “issues.” And you also know that I’m trying to be a good Catholic at the same time. Well, it’s not always a bed of roses.

Like right now.

Maybe it’s because I had to cut my meds down to a half-dose because my new psychiatrist couldn’t fit me right in. I’m don’t know, but life has been very up-and-down lately. (Luckily I have an appointment tomorrow morning to see him, so that’s good.)

Only on a Catholic/mental illness blog could the author go from writing thoughts about the rosary and contemplative prayer one day and writing a post like this one the very next day. Welcome to my world.

I have been mourning my marriage a lot lately. How could my wife and I go from being giddy young(er) lovers to coed roommates who manage a household like brother and sister?

I’m happy for all of the happily married couples that I see at church and on the blogs that I frequent. I really am. It’s just hard for me to see sometimes. Kind of like a guy seeing his recent ex-girlfriend in a hot new relationship while the former boyfriend is at home scouring Internet dating sites, trying in vain to find someone.

I have God, His Son, The Blessed Virgin, and all of the angels and saints, though. However, I don’t mean to sound like I’m questioning my faith (I’m not), but I am reminded of the scene in the movie Good Will Hunting where the counselor asks the young man if he has any friends. The young man says yes, he has many good friends and starts listing off classic authors. The counselor responds by saying that all of those people are dead and begins lecturing him on having real relationships with real people.

Again, there’s no doubt in my mind that the saints are alive in heaven and praying for me constantly. It’s just that… they’re not present here. I can’t see them.

Jesus is my savior and friend (yes, friend), and I love spending time praying/talking to him.

However,

it would be great to have real friends. A real love of my life.

The Church is the bridegroom of Christ. That is awesome; it’s a lovely image.

But that’s more like reading poetry: beautiful allusions and lofty prose. The real thing would be nice, though.

I need to count my blessings. I know. I have been. I thank God daily for everything that He has given me.

It would be wonderful to have a “real (?)” marriage like Christ has with His Church.

Fellow believers, please don’t write me off as a heretic. I’m really not. I’m just a guy who’s going through some stuff, that’s all.

~t


The Joyful Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I started yesterday with some good prayer, and the night before, I studied some uplifting passages in the Scriptures. However, it was a typical Monday for me once I got to work: I was unable to fully wake up, and my students gave me an especially hard time because I handed back the final drafts of their essays which never seems to go well.

I tell you, college students will argue ’til the cows come home in order to get me or my colleagues to reconsider their grades (I usually don’t).

In typical fashion, my focus was no longer on God but on my workday and on everything that needed to be done. By the time I got to my car in the evening, I was feeling pretty guilty about pushing Jesus aside the whole day. It really pained my heart. I needed to get my focus back and put the day’s events (and failures) behind me.

I have iRosary which is an app for my iPhone. I used to use it in order to learn the structure of the rosary and the prayers. Now, however, I seem to use it only to find out what the mysteries are for a certain day.

So I was instantly comforted to know that yesterday was the day for the Joyful Mysteries. God always knows what I need!

I have written some thoughts that I had during my praying of the rosary yesterday. I hope you are able to find some encouragement from them.

1. The Annunciation – Fruit of the Spirit: Humility

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord may not be sending angels to let you know that change is coming, but He works in ways which we may not realize.

Because of His grace, God enabled me to reach out to Him in distress; he answered me by moving within my heart and assuring me that He blesses a humble spirit. God doesn’t want many eloquent words; He works best with a humble and contrite spirit.

You don’t have to be a canonized saint or the Mother of God for Him to speak to you. Just start with prayer and ask Him to help you and show you the way to His Son.

2. The Visitation – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of Neighbor

Gabriel visited Mary, and then Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John, the one who would baptize Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.

It’s been said that Mary was the first missionary, bringing Jesus to her cousin. The Scriptures say that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy when Mary greeted her.

The fruit of the Spirit, love of neighbor, spoke to me the most regarding this mystery. I had just finished a stressful day with students and colleagues, and praying for and loving them were the furthest from my mind; another example of how God urges us and helps us!

3. The Birth of Jesus – Fruit of the Spirit: Poverty

Everyone knows about the nativity; we see it every December. As a result, when I pray this mystery, I try to meditate on something that isn’t ingrained in me like images of warm-and-fuzzy manger scenes on Christmas cards.

I once heard an Evangelical preacher on the radio say that he wanted to design a Christmas card image that reflected his own perspective on the nativity: a disturbing image of Mary on the ground drenched in blood, screaming in agony while giving birth.

The purpose of the preacher’s controversial idea, which may or may not have come to fruition, was to “tell it like it was” and shake people up. Although I’d rather not go to that extreme, I focused on poverty while meditating on this mystery and how God loved me so much that He allowed His Son to be born into a poor family. That little baby in a Bethlehem stable would definitely shake people up one day.

4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Fruit of the Spirit: Obedience

This particular mystery was a breath of fresh air for me yesterday. Our Heavenly Father wants our obedience because that is the only way He can help us. When we surrender to God and His will, we are like baby Jesus in the arms of Simeon, receiving a blessing in the Lord’s very own temple. It is quite an amazing image that  brought tears to my eyes.

You may feel that you are worthless and that nobody loves you. Maybe you’ve been told this so many times that you have started to believe it. Take another look at the image above and see how proud Mary, Joseph, and Simeon the priest are. God and all of the angels and saints in heaven are just as proud of you.

Do some studying and find out about God’s image of you. He created you, so believe Him instead of mean-spirited people in your life.

5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Fruit of the Spirit: Joy in Finding Jesus

Joseph and Mary had been looking for their Son who they thought was in their group as they made their way back home. After three days of searching, His parents were filled with joy when they found Him.

As a parent, I can imagine their joy and relief. Like any good mother, though, the first thing that Mary did was to admonish her Son for not keeping up with them.

Despite what the fruit of the Spirit says, I saw this in the opposite way: I was lingering behind, doing my own thing, and my spiritual family, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, and all the saints in heaven, celebrated and embraced me when I rejoined them.

Final Thoughts

God is nothing like my earthly father: staring at me with a critical eye, waiting for me to mess up so he can hit and berate me. Glory be to Christ that I have a loving Father who longs for me to wallow out of my sin and come back each time I mess up.

As I smiled and praised God for turning my sadness to joy yesterday, I thought of all the individuals in the world who have been hurt by religion or who don’t know the joy and love of the faith. I pray that others can find that bright pearl of Christ in their own lives.

~t


Do You Want to Get Well?

When we give ourselves and our problems over to God, He is faithful and will help us.

Yeah, right.

During the years that I was a church-hopping Protestant, I would hear personal testimonies about how God miraculously helped someone become a brand-new person in Christ. The Bible talks about this in several places; for example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 (RSV) says: “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

I used to read about all the men and women in the New Testament who were changed like this: Paul, Mary Magdalene, Peter, etc. I listened to individuals stand up in front of churches and give testimonies. I would see people in church and wonder how they had their lives changed by Christ. Was it because they naturally had outgoing, ambitious personalities? Was it due to their being on a spiritual high every Sunday? How come God didn’t change me? Was it because I was a self-doubting introvert? Then there was no hope for me. I resigned to the belief that it just wasn’t part of God’s will for me to be a new creation. Maybe the Calvinists were right. I was starting to fear that Unconditional Election was indeed true.

I remember watching Pat Robertson on The 700 Club or other televangelists who would look into the camera and tell me that my life would be transformed and I would be a new man, able to flippantly dismiss sin as a king shooing away a servant.

There was something wrong. It was looking more and more like the Bible and Christianity were only for “winners” who already had positivity beaming out of their orifices like rays of sunshine.

Yelling and forcing did nothing. I didn’t last very long at non-denominational denominations because I had absolutely no interest in emulating the fake smiles and loud, obnoxious good ol’ boys who were “on fire for Jee-zus.” It just wasn’t me.

So, I figured I had two choices: 1) give up and become an atheist or a neo-pagan; or 2) pray like crazy.

I chose the latter because I still had a mustard seed of faith and, darn it, I was bound and determined to have this Holy Spirit live in me.

Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Sorry, Jesus. That’s too cryptic for me.

There is a hymn that I remember from my college days that goes, “…we must die to ourselves and live through Your death.” What the heck does that mean? I have to give up everything and be a monk? That was a pretty scary thought.

So I prayed and prayed. I read everything that I could find about what it meant to surrender to God. I listened to religious call-in programs. I was doing and doing and doing.

I was thinking, I’m doing everything right, so how come I’m not growing in my faith? How come I’m not getting closer to God?

And, wouldn’t you know it, I took an inventory of my life one day and it dawned on me. I was going through the motions of being Catholic, but at the same time I was looking at Internet porn whenever I felt like it, listening to Satanic metal, masturbating regularly, using my illness as an excuse to be down, neglecting my family, and so on. I either had to do something drastic or remain miserable. I was like the invalid in the story from John 5: 1-9 (emphasis mine):

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

It was incredibly hard to cut off social media contacts with all of the negative influences in my life. I quit drinking (because it would sometimes lead me to sin), I stopped looking at porn, I stopped masturbating, I quit whining about being in a sexless marriage — basically I did some major spring cleaning.

That made all the difference.

What about you? Do you want to get well? Tired of being miserable year after year like the man in the above story? You gotta get the sin out of your life and turn to God.

And, yes, it is as hard as it sounds, but it’s what you need to get well.

~t

(photo by Topaz)