If Jesus loves us so much, why does he tell us we have to take up our cross and follow him? Why doesn’t he just take all the pain away?
I frequently come across people who complain about how selfish the people around them are, as I’m sure you do too. In most cases, they are absolutely right. We can all be self-centered at times and fail to be concerned about one another’s needs. But every once in a while, I come across someone who seems to be pushing the limit to which others are responding to their needs beyond the limit of realistic expectations. They act as if everyone is supposed to be at their beck and call and jump whenever they cry out for
anything. What we end up doing is making ourselves the center of our own solar system.We make ourselves the sun and expect everyone else to live as planets revolving around us. This is not very realistic, is it? How many people are willing to allow their entire life to revolve around me and my needs? Not too many. I am certain that no one woke up this morning and prayed, “Heavenly Father, help me know what I need to do today to meet Fr. Carrozza’s needs!” It didn’t happen. Neither did anyone pray that prayer about you, and if we are expecting other people to do so, we’re going to be terribly disappointed. Furthermore, if everyone felt that way, we’d all be a bunch of suns expecting other people to be planets revolving around us.
You can visualize the tension there: everyone is demanding attention and no one is getting it. That for me is a definition of living Hell! But if we place Christ at the center of our solar system, if we let Him be the sun around which we revolve, then we’re all revolving around the same “Son”. We’re all in harmony with each other, everyone going in the same direction, and with Jesus at the center of our lives, we realize that serving Him means serving one another.
We then will all naturally respond automatically to each other’s needs, everyone will be satisfied, and everyone will be at peace. That to me is Heaven on Earth! During Lent, let’s see if we can figure out whether we revolve around Christ or whether we revolve around ourselves and are expecting others to do the same. Ask Christ to be the center of your life. Ask Him to help you change and make Him the center, and to help you encourage others to do the same. When we do that, we will have harmony, we will have joy, we will have peace!
A blessed Lent to you all!
Picture it: the USA 2014. You’re a person who works a regular job and for the most part gets along fine in life; however, you suffered in the past from bouts of perhaps depression, oversensitivity, little things of this nature that have caused you difficulty in your normal daily functioning, so at the suggestion of friends you have willingly placed yourself under the care of a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is very helpful to you. In most situations, he’s giving you a pep talk in helping you see through the issues that cloud your mind so that you can able to understand more clearly exactly what’s taking place and how is the proper way for you to act in any given situation. When you needed more than encouraging words, he prescribed a mild medication, maybe something just to relax your nerves a little bit to aid you. But for the most part he’s there for support and guidance and you find him very helpful. Then one day something really sets you off edge. You have a real crisis in your family, at your job, in a relationship, and it really throws you to pieces and your shaking and trembling and don’t know what to do. Perhaps you’re even reduced to tears. A friend talks with you and asks you what the psychiatrist said when you called him and you said, “Oh I didn’t call the psychiatrist! I stopped going to him because I’m too upset about what’s happening in my life!” Does that make any sense? The psychiatrist is precisely the person who could help you through the difficulties at this moment, so now is a time when you would need him all the more. If you told your friend you didn’t call the psychiatrist because you are angry with him, that this was all his fault, what do you think your friend would say? Would it make any sense whatsoever to blame the doctor because you encounter difficulties in your life? Of course not!
But sometimes it seems to me we make the same mistake with God. When everything is going fine perhaps we go to church on Sunday and we pray every day, but then a crisis comes up, and instead of turning to God all the more in prayer we stop going to church; we stop praying. We get angry at God, as if the difficulty that happened to us was all his fault, and so we stay away from him. But does that give us any relief? Does it help us deal with the situation and improve it? Of course not! God is the one who can help us through the difficulty and at a time such as this the last thing we should do is stop praying and stop going to church simply because something difficult happened. We have all the more reason to turn up the heat on our prayer and energize it so that we can get through this crisis.
God sometimes is like that psychiatrist for us. Many times our prayer just gives us the ability to see things clearly and God in his own way is comforting us and showing us how to handle the difficulties in our life. Perhaps sometimes when we might need a few more graces he may send them our way to help us through the difficulty. But even just knowing that God is there comforting us and saying to us “you’re not alone!” can bring us so much comfort, so much peace! Just like when a friend says to us, “Hey! I’m there for you the whole way!” even if there’s really nothing they can do. Well, if the support of a friend who can’t really do anything to help us would be so powerful for us, imagine what God can do for us when we turn to him in those moments of need!
So when problems happen in your life, do not blame God. Do not stay away from him thinking that somehow you have to handle this on your own, or that praying is not what you need right now. Actually, praying is exactly what we need. Prayer is the medicine that helps us get through the difficulties, that reminds us of God’s presence in our lives, and helps us deal with tremendous things that otherwise we could never handle on our own. So by all means keep a regular prayer life when things are going well, but when difficulties arise rather than make making the mistake that many people do of blaming God for their pain and turning away from him, turn to him all the more and he will be there for you! He will comfort you. God is the doctor to see you through the crisis. God is there for you every moment of every day, every step of the way!
I pulled a great prank on my parishioners today at Mass. Several people told me it needs to be on my blog, so here it is!
There are many reasons why people say they do not attend Mass anymore. Among the reasons they quote, one is their perceived hypocrisy of Catholics who worship faithfully. They accuse Catholics of being all talk and no action. Sometimes of course these accusations are unfair and reveal more about the mindset of the person making them than the Catholics they are attacking. Many times the person making this accusation is being self-righteous and sanctimonious, just like the young man in Dostoevsky’s novel who clearly sees through the hypocrisies in his society. Dostoevsky titled the work, “The idiot”.
But sometimes the accusations are spot on! Sadly, there are many Catholics who are very bold in what they say and what they do at mass and wear flashy religious items for people to see, but whose actions betray them to the point that people might say, “if that’s what being a Catholic is all about, I want no part of it!” As Catholics the worst thing we can do is be hypocritical. We cannot simply talk about how much we love God without actually doing it. Pope Francis is certainly showing us that in teaching us to be concerned about the needs of the poor and looking out for other people. Many times, though, the hypocritical situations have nothing to do with the social justice teachings that we lack but simply the courtesies and the common charity that are missing in our relationships with friends, coworkers, and family members. I am amazed sometimes when I watch what quarreling spouses will do to each other. These are people who once promised to love each other for the rest of their lives and for whom the other person is supposed to be the most important person in their lives, and the mean, vindictive, and downright cruel things that sometimes they’ll say and do to each other is deplorable. People who give a lot of money to poor people in foreign lands but who treat their loved ones like garbage are not fooling anyone. Others will see right through us and only see a phony.
We are hardly being a good example of Christ to others if we are not loving those around us and if we are not trying each and every day to be the best person we can be. To put it simply, our faith is not just for an hour on Sunday. We will impress no one by our prayer on Sunday if we forget about it on Monday.
Are we trying to live as intentional disciples of Jesus? Are we going about each and every day trying to be the people that Christ wants us to be? Are we intentionally working to be people who bring Christ to everyone we meet and who live the gospel each and every day, for whom faith is not merely a creed we follow but a way of life? If we are not actively and consciously working at this each and every day, then the clear answer to us is “no, it is not!” Honest people will forgive us our shortcomings and sins, but they will not forgive hypocrisy. The world doesn’t need a lot of hypocrites. The world doesn’t need a lot of people going around telling God how much they love him; the world needs people who tell God they love him and show it by their love for one another, whether it be the poor, people in foreign countries who are in need, or the people in our own families, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our workplaces. Christ’s love extends to everyone and no one is outside the reach of his love, especially those closest to us. If we wish to truly be effective Christians who lead many people to Christ, there is no escape from loving one another as Christ has loved us.