A Christmas (Birthday) Letter to the Infant Son of God

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Below is a letter I dedicate to our Lord Jesus Christ in celebration of his birth, December 25, 2020 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.

Thank you for sharing!

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

Saint Teresa of Avila


Editor’s Note: Article 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.

Saint Teresa of Avila Pray for Us

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

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Spiritual Surgeons— Saint Isidore of Seville

Doctors of the Catholic Church: Definition and Complete List

Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi

 

 

Thank you for sharing!

Another Whimsical Wednesday Encounter with Wonder: At the Pizzeria


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on August 25, 2017.


“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them,” the great Italian mathematician and astronomer Galileio Galilei once said. Earlier this week, I received confirmation about a truth I was on the path of discovering for several years now—that Wednesday it a high point of the week for me! Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, I mentored an elementary student on the midpoint of the work week. Additionally, I have noticed my children tend to fall asleep easier and more naturally on Wednesday nights.

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This past Wednesday I had another encounter with wonder in a surprising place—a local pizza joint. Coming home from a fun-filled, yet busy first day of school [my wife started a new teaching job], my wife was a little worn out from her day and was not able to get supper prepared.

Pizza, Pizza!

Our 18-month-old son also recently started a learning explosion earlier in the week. He waved good-bye and started playing properly with his toy cars. I felt that we needed to celebrate this achievement (as his early childhood development intervention plan was bearing fruits!). We decided to pick up pizza for dinner.

I went to a close-by pizzeria with our youngest son [the 18-month-old]. Hauling his sister’s Sophia the First stuffed doll in his right arm while being clothed in a Green Bay Packer onesie, my son showed off his inherent whimsical nature. Entering the dinner dive, a tall middle-aged fellow held the door for us. Other customers awaiting their orders included a couple in their twenties, an elderly lady, and another middle-aged man with a grizzled face—a motley crew indeed. I completed my order and the cashier advised there was going to be a 5-minute wait on the pepperoni pizza.

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The Wonderment of a Child

My son meandered up and down the lobby area. First, he went to gaze and touch the sign at the front counter. Less than a few seconds later, he moved toward the door noticed the doormat and bent down to feel the texture. Finally, he walked up to the customers and stared sheepishly at them. All the customers smiled back at him and me. “How old is he?” the tall gentleman asked me. I answered him and he replied with, “These are the best time of your life…haha…you are just a busy little fellow aren’t you.” He continued genteelly smile at us. When our order was completed, he held the door and told me in a jovial tone, “Now you have fun with that little one and take care!”

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This exchange lasted 5 minutes—maybe 6 or 7 if I was truly timing it. Yet, I am still thinking about this wondrous encounter nearly a day later. Why? Aside from that fact that this event occurred on a Wednesday, I cannot provide a definite answer at this time. I did feel a movement of the Holy Spirit at the pizzeria.

Is there nothing more typically American, and normal, than a father picking up pizza for his family during the middle of a hectic week? 😊🍕

The Holy Spirit Works is Mysterious and Delicious Ways

I did not have high expectations, or really any expectations at all, nor did I thought I would acquire anything else from my errand to the local pizzeria besides delicious pepperoni and cheese pizza. Will I meet this kind and cheerful middle-aged man or the other customers ever again in this life? Does he even realize the positive spark he provided me? I may never discover the answer to those questions.

What I think it important to share with this experience is that any event is a chance to rendezvous with the love of the Holy Spirit— a playful, whimsical, powerful, and awe-filled love. I usually see God’s love being experienced in either the lows or highs of my life. Is it possible that God wanted me to experience His profound love in a plainer, simpler way this Wednesday—through the plains and levelness of daily ordinary life?

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-All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

Related Links

A Whimsical Wednesday Encounter with Wonder

A Close Encounter of the Whimsical Kind 😜

Facts from a Whimsical Wednesday

 

Thank you for sharing!

Reflections on the Most Holy Trinity

Our world needs God. This year has definitely reminds us sin exists. We don’t require a dictatorial Supreme Being who imposes rules and restrictions. The backlash caused by the lockdowns across the United States reminds me of the Israelite people in the book of Exodus.

God is Love

Freedom from slavery didn’t free them from selfish tendencies. Moses asked God, “O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own (Exodus 34:9).

The easy thing to do during a crisis is to play the blame game. Bad police. Inept politicians. Rage-filled rioters. But the way to true change is not in resentment or scapegoating. Authentic change for a better world is a narrow gate.

Saint John tells us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Trinity Sunday is about unity. The devil divides. In fact, the Greek word for devil, diabolos, means “to divide”. Satan aims to please the self and divide us from the multiplying force of God’s love.

Jesus came to save us from the Great Divider. Last week the Church celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the Arrival of the Unifying Holy Spirit. While Jesus ascended back to the Father he did promise the Apostles (and us) to send a Helper. Two thousand years later, the Holy Spirit has continued to guide the Church.

Holy Trinity Icon

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates the truth that God is love. Three Persons. One God. It is the simplest, yet most mysterious Christian truth.

Know Thy Enemy

Our common enemy hates Love and works to sow division. Satan’s common tactics include:

  • Destroy the family–> the family is an image of the Holy Trinity. Satan despises this reminder of God to the world. Divided families lead to divided societies.
  • Attack when holiness is increasing–> Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “Satan always tempts the pure (holy)—the others are already his.” I find that temptations find me quickly after I receive the Sacrament of Confession. The Devil wants to wound healed souls.
  • Transform suffering into hopelessness–> Satan “hopes” pain leads people toward despairs. He wants suffering to remain at the chaotic (meaningless) level.

Love Transforms Suffering

C.S. Lewis wrote in A Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (p.91). I used to think suffering meant I did something wrong. My understanding of suffering was immature— obey God’s laws and receive rewards but disobey and get punished.  The Israelites didn’t listen to God even when He freed them from Pharaoh’s tyranny. Read about the Golden Calf incident in Exodus 32. Moses was PISSED OFF. And rightfully so.

Moses breaking stones tablets

Who else remembers watching “The 10 Commandments” every Palm Sunday? What a classic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was the Israelite’s punishment for worshipping a false god? Longer time spent wandering (aimlessly) in the desert. God could have compelled their obedience, yet Love doesn’t operate as a dictator. Freedom necessarily involves the potential of suffering (based on our choices).

Our world is always going to be in turmoil (2020 is not the exception on suffering, but the rule). No amount of sin can separate you from God as long as you sincerely seek repentance **stops typing and jumps for joy**. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit— undivided Unity. Reflect on the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity this week. Ask God to give you the strength to endure your daily struggles and joy to notice the wonders in your life.

Related Links

Why Trinity Sunday Comes After Pentecost

12 Things to Know and Share About the Holy Trinity

A clever way to explain the Holy Trinity to children

Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity!


P.S. Congratulations for reaching the end of this article (or maybe you skimmed). I would play a fanfare on my silver trumpet but I think my mom sold it **jots down ‘new trumpet’ on post-it note**.

Anyways, if you enjoyed learning about the awesomeness of the Holy Trinity become an email subscriber. Enter your email address in the Subscribe to Blog Via Email box and hit the Subscribe button. It’s that easy! Soon you will be receiving  cool Catholic content in your inbox.

Thank you for sharing!

What Exactly Does Jesus Mean in John 14:12?


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 22, 2017.


I was sitting in the pew of Saint Lambert’s Catholic Church listening to our priest deliver the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter—this is rare since I am usually out in the hallway with my finicky 1 year old! —when I noticed a strange verse in the reading. St. John quotes Jesus as saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12 New American Bible). Throughout the rest of that Mass and every day since I have pondered Jesus’ meaning. Today I want to share some of my thoughts on how I interpreted this peculiar passage!

peculiar

Greater in Quantity Not Quality

According to the dictionary, the word greater is defined as large in number, notable, highly significant, and distinguished to name a few definitions. I want to highlight the first definition—large in number. It makes senses for the works of Christians done in Jesus’ name to be larger than Christ’s miraculous deeds done on Earth simply because 33 years is significantly shorter than the over 2,000 years in Church history. It is also important to read verse 12 in context with the rest of the passage.

Immediately following Jesus’ odd statement in John 14:12, he talks about the sending of the Holy Spirit after he ascends to the Father. Jesus declared, ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you (John 14:15-17 NAB). It is through cooperation with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity that Apostles and saints are graced through the ages to produce miraculous works.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit= Distinct but Equally God

God is ultimately above humanity’s total comprehension. St. Thomas says that man must have a certain type of agnosticism about the full knowledge of God. According to John Courtney Murray in The Problem of God, “In the end, our presence to him, which is real, is a presence to the unknown; ‘to him we are united as to one unknown,’ says Aquinas (p. 71).  Because of this ineffable complete understanding of God, it makes sense that some peculiar and seemingly paradoxical passages in the Scriptures exist.

John may have struggled with how to properly describe the relationship of the Trinity. He might even have shared similar questions as myself. However, despite this struggle, as a Catholic I believe John to be a trustworthy firsthand witness to the teaching of Jesus.

John makes it crystal clear in his prologue to his Gospel that though the Persons of the Trinity as Distinct they are equally God. Knowing this religious truth, when I go back to read John 14:12 I know that Jesus cannot possibly mean the works done by the Holy Spirit as greater than His works since the Son and the Holy Spirit are equally God!

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Think about the Holy Trinity

Now the feast of the Holy Trinity (my favorite liturgical feast 😊) is arriving soon, and I hope to be sharing more of my thoughts and reflections on the mystery of the Holy Trinity leading up to that Sunday. Until then, I will leave you to ponder Jesus’ mysterious words again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father”.  

May we all be grateful for the gifts of knowledge and understanding given to us by the Holy Spirit and pray for a deepening of these gifts especially as we draw nearer to the Feast of the Holy Trinity

Related Links

Reflections on the Most Holy Trinity

3 Things about the Holy Trinity I Learned from Elementary Students

Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity!

Catholic Doctrine on the Holy Trinity

The Glory of the Most Holy Trinity: ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

Thank you for sharing!

Jesus and Mary Talk about the Role of Peter Before Dinner

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Here’s an imaged conversation between Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary shortly after Peter’s Confession in Matthew 16:13-20.


Mary: Good Evening, Son. How did your preaching go today? Did those Pharisees change their attitude about you yet?

Who do you say that I am

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus: No. This still cling to their rigid judgment. Today, I asked them [the Apostles] who they thought I was. Elijah? John the Baptist? A new prophet?

Those were common answers given by the public. I told them I did not what others thought, but what they thought.

Can you guess who answered my question Mother?”

Mary: Was it that bold and ambitious fisherman? Simon is his name, right?

Jesus: You say so and it is true. Simon recognized me as the “Messiah, Son of the living God.” His name is now changed to Peter meaning “rock”.

I also entrusted to him authority to lead my disciples.

Mary: Do they know?

Jesus: That I must suffer, die, and be raised on the third day? Yes. Peter’s rashness surfaced again. His great passion and love for his teacher made him overprotective of me.

I directly called out his actions as that of the Adversary.

Mary: Though I know your suffering will be a great pain for me, I trust in the will of God.

Jesus: I know. Mother you are most holy.

The Advocate will guide Peter, John, James and the rest once I go back to The Father.

Help Peter in his mission. Be a consolation for him when he experiences distress.

Mary: Yes, my Son. Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done according to your word.

Jesus: You are indeed most blessed among all women!

I am hungry from the day’s walk. I brought home fish for dinner. Do you want to start the grill fire or should I cook?

Mary: Let’s cook together. You work is mine and mine is yours.

Jesus: Amen!

Grilling fish

[Mary and Jesus end their day with a tasty meal followed by praying the Scriptures before they go to sleep to prepare for another day telling the Good News.]

Thank you for sharing!

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 quiet 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 a deeper way, like Moses and Elijah did on the mountaintop! 

Related Links

Elijah flees to the mountain and speaks to God

The Call of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

The Link Between Lent and Confession—by Guest Blogger William Hemsworth

Reflections on Saint John Henry Newman’s Lenten Sermon

 

 

Thank you for sharing!