Finding and fulfilling God’s calling for us
By Jerome Placido
It is true that our past experiences, family backgrounds, even the examples given by the rest of the world have in one way or another shaped how we approach relationships. But these alone should not be what shapes how we love one another and love God. If we do allow these things to dominate how we love and not take into consideration the source of all love, which is God, then we fall short of how Christ calls us to love.
I know people who cannot imagine being alone for the rest of their lives let alone to be without a relationship for more than 5 months. There are others who would rather not be involved with anyone and would rather die than be “tied down.” Then there are others who are indifferent and could go either way.
But life is more than the quest for that special someone. For those who remember “Boy Meets World,” it’s more than a Cory and Topanga happy ending. Life is about finding and fulfilling God’s calling for us, our vocation.
No, not a VACATION, I’m talking about a VOCATION.
The word comes from the Latin “vocare” which translated means “to call.” So basically we can say that a vocation is what God is calling us to do. More than that it is the official invitation from God telling us how exactly he desires us to love Him.
The intention of this article isn’t to begin and break down the different types of callings and go into depth each one (which we can go into in another entry). But for now, let us focus on the universal call for all men, the call to holiness, the call to love God with our entire beings and then to love our neighbors.
St. Therese of Lisieux once said “My vocation is love…” We have more than enough bad examples, and wrong road maps on what love is and how we should love. We don’t have to go far for good examples either. Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, “When I look at the Cross I see how much Jesus loved me then, when I look at the Blessed Sacrament I see how much he loves me now.”
If we want an example of love, let’s go back to the author who leaves us not only the great sign of His love, but as he promised he remains with us always (Mt 28:20). St. Thomas Aquinas calls the Holy Eucharist the Sacrament of Love, so let it be then our very example of how we are to love.
Our Lord remains faithful and constant despite the rejection He may receive from men He never stops giving His whole self over, to those whom He loves. He remains silent and humble regardless of the lack of reverence shown him. Little show love in return, few recognize His love, but no complaint comes from the Lord he simply continues to love. He transcends time and space and takes the form of mere bread not only to be adored but to be consumed by His beloved, us.
It is a love that is simple yet profound not expressed by jewelry, flowers, chocolates, or elaborate gifts, but rather he offers the “pearl of great price” to all whom he loves, that is, HEAVEN. His love is pure; He does not love us for our appearances, our figure, but for our soul and our salvation.
Words really are not enough to explain the great example of Christ’s love in the Eucharist, and so I invite you to spend a few moments of your own meditating this love and let it guide you always in the love we show to others.
Sad but true, we do have plenty of bad examples. But, when we begin to love the way Christ prescribes, we, in time, will have more good examples.
TRUE LOVE is contagious because everyone is seeking it. And when that perfect love comes into one’s life, “all imperfect things shall disappear.” So let our love echo His and we will be the catalyst that changes how the whole world sees love, and how individuals begin to love.
How to Stay Strong Spiritually During Lent
By Fr. John Bartunek, LC
Q: Every year I start out Lent with great ambition and hope for spiritual growth, but somewhere along the way I lose interest and let myself slide. I really want to avoid the slide this year ... any suggestions to help me stay strong?
A: Sure! The key thing to think about is why you tend to slide. If you can identify the cause, then you can easily find the solution. In general, three things tend to make our Lenten resolutions less transforming than we would like them to be.
First, they can be unrealistic. Some of us have the tendency to bite off more than we can chew. It’s like the former jock who hasn’t worked out for two years. She decides to get back in shape. But then she sets herself an Olympic-style workout program. She does it for two days, but it’s way too demanding, so she drops it.
What she should have done is start small – a 15-minute walk and some stretching every other day for two weeks, for example – then build back up to where she would like to be. In our spiritual lives we can make the same mistake.
We forget that climbing the mountain of holiness is a journey of small steps. And after trying to take a bunch of big steps (and falling down every time), we simply give up.
Second, our Lenten resolutions can be off target. This is an endemic problem for us post-modern Catholics. We see the fruits of spiritual immaturity in our lives (impatience, unchastity, loose tongue, judgmentalism…), and we start hacking away at them, like cutting back the branches of a tree. But all the while, we leave the roots unbothered. When that happens, the branches just grow right back, or flourish even more!
If we really want to make progress, we have to do our part to get to the root of our selfish tendencies. Do you know what your root sin is (we all have one)? Do you know its most salient manifestations? If so, then you will be able to choose a Lenten resolution that will help you aim your efforts effectively, and this will give you momentum and strength to persevere.
If you don’t, I would recommend that you make a Lenten resolution to take up 15 minutes of spiritual reading each day, and read some solid, truly instructional books that will help you get to know yourself (like Spiritual Progress by Fr. Thomas Williams, or This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan). Or, sign up for an authentic spiritual exercises retreat.
Additionally, you may want to look for someone who can be a kind of spiritual mentor for you, or spiritual director. They can help you aim better. You can also find some information about what spiritual writers call a “program of life” here. (If you have some extra time, you may want to listen to this radio broadcast, where I talk a bit about holiness and root sins.)
Season of Grace
Third, we can suffer from impurity of intention. Sometimes even faithful Catholics can fall into giving things up for Lent for the wrong reasons. We can think more in terms of self-improvement than in deepening our friendship with Christ. If we do that, even in a subtle, subconscious way, we will run out of steam pretty fast.
Lent is not the season of Catholic self-help. Lent is a season of grace, given to us by the Church to draw closer to our Lord and prepare for the celebration of his Passion and Resurrection. Any Lenten resolution needs to be geared towards helping us open our hearts to that grace and drink it in. (You can find more reflections on the season of Lent here.)
Finally, don’t be afraid to alter your Lenten resolutions if you find they are not helping you live the season deeply. By changing them, you are telling God that you really are interested in drawing closer to him during these holy days. I will be praying for you, and for all our readers here on Faith and Family LIVE!Full story from ParishWorld.net
By Henry Harris
Is marriage a part of God's plan for everyone? By the way many married folks treat singles, it would appear the answer is "yes." I hear comments like, "What's a nice girl like you doing unmarried?" and, "What you need is a good wife!"
Parents say that; relatives say that (hey singles, don't you just love those family reunions?); seems like everyone wants to "help" their single friends get married and thus fulfill God's plan for their life.
All I've got to say about all this is, "Time out!" God certainly wants to give us a full and meaningful life, but that does not automatically include marriage. The Bible is filled with people who lead terrific lives without ever getting married. The Bible is very comfortable with singleness.
There are, of course, several kinds of singleness: there are those who have never been married, those who are widowed and those who are divorced. While God has instructions that apply to each of these kinds individually, He also has guidelines that apply to all singles:
Guideline No. 1: Seek God's total plan for your life. If you are single and happy with your lifestyle, great! Remember that God's plan includes every part of life, and whether you marry or not is just one part.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says being single offers the Christian a great opportunity to serve the Lord without the distractions of being married. So whether your singleness is temporary or permanent, take advantage of the time to channel energy into positive, constructive ministry.
Guideline No. 2: Live a quality life now! It's easy to procrastinate when you are single, putting life on hold until you get married. Realize that singleness is not the time to be in a holding pattern; if you've put your life into neutral, shift gears!
Don't buy into the myth that says singleness equals incompleteness. Please realize that God has not put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket! Make up your mind to be content whether single or married, and live your life to the fullest.
Guideline No. 3: Cultivate deep, caring relationships. Regardless of whether you are married or single, you need quality relationships to stay healthy and happy. If you are single, cultivate a relationship with someone who will pray for you, who will correct you when you go in the wrong direction, who will encourage you when you are down, and who will counsel you when big decisions need be made. Find someone who will listen to your doubts, fears, questions and concerns as well as help you celebrate your victories and joys.
Guideline No. 4: Be very cautious about marrying. This is particularly true if you are disappointed, unhappy or frustrated with your present state. You will be vulnerable to making an unwise choice. Sometimes we become so obsessed with getting into a relationship that we ignore all sorts of warning signs. Let me just mention a few:
Warning sign No. 1: You are a Christian, but your potential mate is not. Many disastrous marriages have been made by a Christian thinking, "I'll change him (her) ... " Will you? Be sure the change happens before you get married.
Warning sign No. 2: You notice major differences between you and your potential mate in your philosophy of life, interests, values, etc., but you think "our love will overcome ... " Will it? For example, your boyfriend is a sports fanatic, but you think after getting married he will lose interest because he will have you. Sure he will ...
Warning sign No. 3: You find yourself in a relationship where you argue all the time, but you think that when you are married, the arguing will stop. Really? Ask some friends who are already married if that is true. Many people naively think that marriage will solve all their problems. It won't. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that you should not hastily enter into a marriage. Take time to become friends first.
Henry Harris is lead pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Hollister, CA.
By Bo Sanchez
May I disturb you?
Last Sunday, I disturbed the 6000+ people attending the Kerygma Conference.
Because that morning, God disturbed me too.
He woke me up and told me to totally change my talk. Just like that. I had barely a few minutes to prepare, so I didn’t even know everything I was going to say.
On stage, I opened the Bible to Matthew 11:28:“Come to me all of you who are weary and tired and I will give you rest…” That passage is so well known, you even see it in Hallmark cards. But very few read the hard-to-understand verse after that. Verse 29 says, “Take my yoke upon you…”
Which is a rather strange way of giving someone rest!
Just in case you didn’t know, a yoke is the heavy wooden beam that you put on cattle or oxen, so they could pull a plow or pull a wagon. Not very restful, I assure you. What in the world was Jesus talking about?
I told the 6000+ people listening to me that there were two kinds of tired people: Those tired because of their trials and those tired because of their sins. And it was the second group of people I wanted to speak to.
Are you tired because of the yoke of sin?
I believe no one on this planet ever walks without a yoke. No one! There are only two yokes available: You either carry the yoke of God or the yoke of sin. (Anyone who defines “freedom” as freedom away from God is carrying the heaviest yoke or burden of all.)
I then told my audience, “God woke me up this morning to tell me that today, we need to make a commitment—on our knees—to the yoke of purity.”
That day, I just felt a burden in my heart to preach about purity.
I said, “You either carry the yoke of purity or the yoke of impurity. Both are yokes. But one is a million times heavier than the other. And the word ‘million’ is a gross understatement.”
The crowd was silent. More silent than usual. I knew I was hitting a sore spot—a topic no one wanted to talk about.
“Friends, I know the yoke of impurity,” I said, “I was addicted to pornography for decades. Let me tell you—I liken porn to swallowing vomit. It sucked my life. It consumed so much of my time and energy, it almost destroyed my life and dreams. Until God came into my life and He asked me to give it up, in exchange for the beautiful and very light yoke of purity.”
A Word To Boyfriends And Girlfriends
I also talked to singles in relationships. “Stop playing around with this beautiful gift of purity. Don’t open this gift, toss it around, or smudge it. Preserve it and give it to each other on the day of your wedding.”
I asked them to set the bar high. “When my wife and I became boyfriend and girlfriend, we decided not to kiss each other on the lips. It was crazy. And believe me, it was difficult! The struggle was great. But we set the bar very high so that if ever we failed, the slippage won’t be deep. That decision kept our relationship pure. We explored each other’s minds, not each other’s bodies. On our wedding day, we were able to give ourselves the beautiful gift of purity.”
“I know that others put the bar so low,” I said. “As long as they don’t have sex, they think they can do whatever they want. But singles who do this find out sooner or later that they destroy the gift of purity.”
I also spoke to those who already lost their virginity. “Physical virginity is important. But spiritual virginity is more important. Even if you’ve done ‘it’ before, make a decision with your boyfriend or girlfriend to keep your relationship pure from this day forth. And God will give you spiritual virginity. This is the gift that you’ll give each other on your wedding day.”
Renounce Emotional Adultery
I then spoke to husbands and wives.
“Physical adultery is obviously sinful. But how many of you reject Emotional Adultery? When God invented marriage, He designed you to give 100% of your thoughts, your affections, your emotions, your attractions to one person and one person alone. When you do that, your marriage is dynamite. Powerful. Magnificent. Your marriage blooms because you invest all that you have to one person. But when you slice up your thoughts and affections and give one sliver to this other person and another sliver to this other person, you scatter your power. Don’t wonder why your marriage lacks depth and joy and love.”
That day, I led all 6000+ to kneel down.
First, the singles. Second, the couples.
All of us repented of our sins.
All of us received His forgiveness.
All of us gave up the yoke of impurity.
All of us took on the yoke of purity.
All of us made a solemn commitment to live a life of purity.
It was so powerful, so moving, you could see people in tears.
Many were set free that day.
Friends, I invite you to make the same commitment today.
Take the yoke of purity.
Jesus wants to set you free.
May your dreams come true,