How Fasting in Lent Will Help You Climb a Spiritual Mountain

Lent fasting meme

The half way point of  Lent is a time period when  many people begin to cave into their Lenten promises. I know for me it is a struggle. I gave up negativity and fast food. Though in giving it up I find myself with a lot of extra time. I have spent more time in prayer with God during these forty days.

The Latin word for Lent, quadragesima, literally means forty days! However, this number does not mean much to the average person unless they understand the significance of the number forty in Scripture.  

God and Geography 

The number forty is  also attached to particular geography: mountains and deserts. When one thinks of these places words such as desolate, barren, alone, and harsh might come to mind.

God seems to have a close presence to individuals in the Bible in these settings. Take Moses for instance, in Exodus 24:18 when he stays on the peak of Mount Sinai for forty days and nights. It was here that Moses met God and received the Ten Commandments.

Elijah and Mountain

Elijah also met God upon a mountain, after traveling for forty days and nights. On the mountain, Elijah faced strong winds and an intense earthquake. But he continued to hold steadfast in faith and met God in a quite whisper.

How often do we let the “noises” of daily life distract us from God?

In this modern world, people hate the quite and constantly surround themselves with “things” (cellphones, internet, television, etc) to keep from silence. 

Importance of Fasting

During Lent we are called to a life of fasting. While Christians should always be fasting in some degree throughout the year, the Church urges us to reflect upon it more deeply.

The first thing Jesus does after His Baptism is to fast in the desert for forty days and nights. Probably weak from hunger, He is tempted by the devil. But Jesus fails to give into worldly pleasures. It is this example that all Christians are called to in Lent. By giving up things from this world, we can center our life back onto Christ.  
Mount Sinai 

Though it may feel like you are on a mountaintop or in a desert thirsting, know that Lent is not a time for punishing yourself with guilt. In fasting one learns to give up unnecessary and sometimes harmful objects or habits and grow into a closer relationship with Jesus.

Hopefully at the end of Lent, we can all say that we truly experienced God in an deeper way, like Moses and Elijah did on the mountaintop! 

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St. Francis de Sales on Gratitude

This Lent I am revisiting the great spiritual treatise of St. Francis de Sales’— Introduction to the Devout Life. Reading a couple meditations each day provides me ample time to reflect on the wisdom of the timeless truths of the Gospels as given to the world by God through St. Francis.

During the height of a stressful work day, I gazed at this book on my desk and resolved to take 5 minutes of my break to read the third meditation.

Everyday is a gift form God

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme for that meditation was titled: On Gifts of God. Below is an excerpted section from this third meditation:

Considerations:

  1. Consider the material gifts God has given you—your body, and the means for its preservation;
    your health, and all that maintains it; your friends and many helps. Consider too how many persons
    more deserving than you are without these gifts; some suffering in health or limb, others exposed
    to injury, contempt and trouble, or sunk in poverty, while God has willed you to be better off.
    2. Consider the mental gifts He has given you. Why are you not stupid, idiotic, insane like many
    you wot of? Again, God has favoured you with a decent and suitable education, while many have
    grown up in utter ignorance.
    3. Further, consider His spiritual gifts. You are a child of His Church, God has taught you to
    know Himself from your youth. How often has He given you His Sacraments? what inspirations
    and interior light, what reproofs, He has given to lead you aright; how often He has forgiven you,
    how often delivered you from occasions of falling; what opportunities He has granted for your
    soul’s progress! Dwell somewhat on the detail, see how Loving and Gracious God has been to you

Affections and Resolutions:

1. Marvel at God’s Goodness. How good He has been to me, how abundant in mercy and
plenteous in loving-kindness! O my soul, be thou ever telling of the great things the Lord has done
for thee!

2. Marvel at your own ingratitude. What am I, Lord, that Thou rememberest me? How unworthy am I! I have trodden Thy Mercies under root, I have abused Thy Grace, turning it against Thy very
Self; I have set the depth of my ingratitude against the deep of Thy Grace and Favour.
3. Kindle your gratitude. O my soul, be no more so faithless and disloyal to thy mighty
Benefactor! How should not my whole soul serve the Lord, Who has done such great things in me
and for me?

Reflection

What probably gave me most pause from the above except was St. Francis’ second resolution he charges: Marvel at your own ingratitude. Wait, what? Marvel at my epic fail of thanksgiving this week?! Yes, you read St. Francis’ words correctly. Pondering your own failure to be thankful for the gifts God bestowed upon you is a necessary step towards improvement of an attitude of gratitude.

It did not take me long reflecting about my own spiritual ineptitude. Most of my suffering and negativity this week stemmed from failure to simply thank God. Thank Him for the gifts— however big or small— He already provided me.

Gratitude helps to stave off greed and pride. I am thankful that I decided to spend a small amount of break-time in prayer. I am grateful for the example of holiness St. Francis de Sales. Finally, I am thankful for the gifts of my faith, family, and friends that God grants me daily!

Related Links

Gratitude is Our Oxygen

St. Francis de Sales: Franciscan Media

Introduction to the Devout Life


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Why the Man Climbed Up the Sycamore Tree 🌳

Zaccheus

Here is a fictional  episode of Zaccheus before, during, and after the him seeing Jesus in Luke 19:1-10.

This is purely from my imagination and is no way meant to be an addition to Scripture nor an official interpretation of the aforementioned passage.


[A short Jewish man knocked on the door of house in the city of Jericho.].

Zaccheus: Anyone home?! Taxes are due. Time to collect.

Elderly Jericho citizen: I already used my last denarii for food. Payday is not until next week.

Zaccheus: [scowling] Fine. But be prepared when I make my next collection round.

[This was the final stop on this daily route. He stopped. This was tough work. Great money. But trying on his conscience. Zaccheus didn’t originally plan on getting into this sort of work. He felt there was no other way to support himself in this economy.]

Zaccheus: [seeing a crowd ahead he asked the nearest person on the street] What is going on?

Standerby: This miracle worker is getting everyone’s attention. Talking about the Kingdom of God. I believe his name is Jesus.

Zaccheus: Jesus?  Maybe he is the one all the  scribes and Pharisees were concerned about.

Jesus: The first shall be last and the last first. Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor like yourself. This is the path to union with God.

Zaccheus: [talking to himself] I need to hear more of what this man, Jesus, is saying. Too bad I am so short and can barely see over a child. Lord, I need a sign.

[A gust blew swiftly past the tax collector.  Zaccheus thought he heard the words, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Suddenly a brilliantly white light, shaped like a dove, descended from the sky and nestled on a bough of the giant sycamore tree ahead.]

Holy Spirit

Zaccheus: [Thinking to himself] Lord you want me to climb that mighty tree? I will look like a fool. I’m too short. Surely I cannot reach that first limb. It’s too high.]

Zaccheus walked closer. He passed the crowd and arrived at the trunk of the sycamore.  Another amazing thing happened. He noticed smaller branches at the base winding their way up the tree as to form a natural ladder.

He scampered up the leafy ladder. Finally, he reached the giant limb the light-dove landed on. The bird still was perched there.

Jesus: Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.

[Faster than he climbed, Zaccheus descended the tree]

Zaccheus:  Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.

Jesus:  [smiling at Zaccheus] Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

I see you met the Advocate. He will guide you when I return back to my Father.

You will meet a doctor many years later. He will ask about me. Remember our meeting Zaccheus. Tell him everything that has happened.

Zaccheus: Yes my Lord!

[Zaccheus left a changed man.  In his old age, he met a doctor named Luke. The former tax collector told the physician all that he witnessed in his encounter with Jesus.]

Related Link

Jesus and Mary Talk about the Role of Peter Before Dinner


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What is the secret to joy and daily peace?

Secret to life

The secret to joy & the closest thing to finding peace daily is something people talk about but aren’t consistently doing…

Gratitude is our oxygen

Be grateful. In all things. Literally everything.

Common objection to this claim:

“But you don’t know what I’ve been through. The horrors I faced & currently face.”

Your 100% right. I may not know your situation. Nor even be capable of fathoming it.

However, I have faced hell. 2014 was that year for me.

We wife and I lost our unborn baby Jeremiah due to miscarriage—four hours before his death I heard his heartbeat 💓 . Saw it on an ultrasound.

The horror is loss took my wife by storm immediately.

Me? It poisoned me and slowly I lost my hope. I was on the brink of giving up—at everything.

My faith helped me through it, but I am not completely healed—nor ever will be healed fully.

Be thankful in everything. Matt, are you thankful for losing your son?

It took me several years to get to this point and I would have to say—yes I am grateful.

Loss transforms you

Without that loss I would never be the man I am today. We would never have our son Josiah—whose name actually translates as healer (I didn’t intend for that connection).

I want to let you know that you will survive your firestorm. Ask the Holy Spirit for deliverance daily. It won’t be easy, but God will sustain you.

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3 Reasons Why Jesus was Baptized

In 2019, Bishop Joseph Tobin tweeted a questionable statement about Jesus’ Baptism,

“Christ stood with all of us sinners seeking redemption” and that “the sinless Redeemer was reborn in grace”.

Whether his intention was heretical or if it was simply loose and careless theology could certainly be up for debate, I wish to write to clarify the reasons for why Jesus was actually Baptized.

Jesus' Baptism

Did Jesus Need to be Baptized?

Contrary to what was purported by the cardinal,  Jesus did not require Baptism for salvation and also did not need to be “reborn in grace”. Already sinless, Jesus first and foremost entered the waters of the Jordan as an example for the new sacramental life of grace for his disciples to follow.

In John 3:5 Jesus taught Nicodemus [and later us] of the necessity for Baptism when he declared, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of this passage as well:

 Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!” (No. 1253).

Along with modeling the importance of Baptism, though Jesus himself did not require cleansing from sin, three additional lessons may be learned from the Event of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Fulfillment of Old Testament

Several key events in the Bible relate to water. The Flood in Genesis 6-8, the Crossing of the Red Sea, and the Crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land are just a few of the aquatic occasions detailed in the Old Testament.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129).

The Baptism of Jesus is a feast to help us realize the fulfillment of God’s promises from long ago.

Prefiguring the Death of Jesus

 Along with being foreshadowed in the Old Testament, Jesus’ Baptism signified an anticipation of his Death. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes this perfectly in his work Jesus of Nazareth,

Looking at the events (of Christ’s baptism) in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, ”Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon. 1:12) . . . The baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word
“baptism” to refer to his death (18).

Death to sin [original] gives way to a new life in the sacrament of Baptism. A new life of grace occurs through the waters of Baptism.

Door Way to Adoption

According to my favorite reference book– the thesaurus, synonyms for adoption include the following: acceptance, confirmation, ratification, and support. While each of those words convey a strong and position sense of adoption the synonym that stood out most to me was embracing.

Biological birth occurs through the profound act of sex, however, unfortunately not every child is welcomed a gift as a result. The major difference with adoption versus biological parenthood is that the former always seeks out the child to be welcomed into the family whereas that is not always the case for the latter.

Please note that this is not a knock on biological parents as some of the best parents gained children through biology [i.e. MY PARENTS!].

The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism in paragraph 1265, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Enter New Life

Because of original sin, the biology of humanity is tarnished with a natural aversion from God’s will. Humans naturally seek their own will over the Will of the Father. Through the waters of Baptism, people cleansed of original sin and enter into the door of the sacramental life of the Church.

While Jesus did not require rebirth into the sacramental life of grace, he was baptized by John in the Jordan River to fulfill the Old Testament, prefigure his Death and Resurrection, and be a model for God’s faithful. German Catholic philosopher Josef Piper declared, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” The graces received through the sacrament of Baptism truly brings good news as we become adopted children of God!

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Related Links

Remember Your Baptism

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 6- Destructive Waters

The Sacrament of Baptism: Gateway to New Life

US Cardinal, Jesus Was “Reborn in Grace” – What?

 

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A Birthday Letter to the Infant Son of God

Nativity.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a letter I dedicate to our Lord Jesus Christ in celebration of his birth, December 25, 2019 Anno Domini. 


Dear Baby Jesus,

In a stable, 2000 years ago, a seemingly ordinary infant was born. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shepherds and kings from afar learned about His incredible presence. God uses the most common of circumstances to work the greatest of all miracles–the Incarnation. God so loved the world He sent you–His only Son– to bridge the great gulf, the separation caused by sin.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, you my king took the form of mankind. I have heard the Nativity story dozens of times. This Advent I feared I would took your origin story for granted. Instead, I am grateful for the opportunity to gaze on the Nativity scene through new eyes–not merely of a follower, but also as a father.

My children are a reminder of your goodness, truth, and beauty. Seeing the twinkle in their eyes when they gaze at the Nativity Scene at home or church is priceless. The smiles on my kids faces as they color “presents” pictures for my wife and I remind me the true reason for the season!

People are born everyday on this earth, but only once a year do we remember the greatest birth of all.

Jesus my servant king, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, God-hero, I adore you and celebrate with my family and friends the anniversary of your birth. I pray that my heart is enlarged to make room within the inn of my soul for you, my family, friends, and people I meet daily!

Praise we to God in the Highest and Alleluia for our Savior’s arrival.

With great love and gratitude,

Your adopted son,

Matthew


For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

 

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Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Originally published in 2017


Does Your Soul Need a Deep Clean?

My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning (it was a mere 2 days before the official start of spring J) this past weekend. That coupled with a reference to avoiding desolation and clearing our soul from the “dustiness” of a dry spiritual life during my weekly parish men’s group influenced the title of this post and inspired me to write today.

I am a neat freak. In fact, one of the major three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life, why do I occasionally lack the same fervor that I have cleaning my physical house?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 797,

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.

The Cleansing Power of the Holy Spirit

This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently.

She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”

Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand yet at the same time illustrates the complexity of our human condition.

Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.

Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily and gives ways for us to clear out the “dustiness” of our soul. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.

My goal is to take a few minutes each week to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.

spiritual surgeons

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