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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (September 27, 2015) Gospel: Temptations To Sin, Mk 9:38-43, 45 47-48

The word of God this Sunday is focused on the 10423349_1155514751131698_5245816457681358538_nopenness and respect for those who are different.

Pope Francis’ speech yesterday before Philadelphia’s iconic Independence Hall echoed that thought, when he gave a ringing endorsement of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

According to a CNN report, he urged his American hosts to avoid a “superficial quest for unity.”Addressing a predominantly immigrant crowd, he said, “In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.”

Drawing cheers from the large crowd, where many of the faithful waved flags from countries such as Costa Rica and Mexico, the Argentine-born Francis encouraged his diverse flock to “never be ashamed of your traditions.”

“Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders,” he stated, “which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.

“Pope Francis made his remarks from the same lectern Abraham Lincoln used to give the Gettysburg Address, a fitting setting for a speech stressing freedom. He declared, however, that the rights of the faithful should extend well beyond the sanctuary door.”Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate,” he averred.

“But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.”Pope Francis was most animated and drew the loudest response when he addressed the immigrants, greeting them with “particular affection.”

“Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face,” he said, to loud cheers. “I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation.”

OUR PRAYER:

O God our Creator, we ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (September 13, 2015) Gospel:

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Peter’s Confession About Jesus – Mk 8:27-35

“Who do you say that I am?” — Mark 8.29

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the hugely successful 1971 Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak rock opera GODSPELL based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which deals with the last days of Jesus, and includes dramatized versions of several well-known parables.

And yet it is something more – a religious experience, a demonstration of joy, and a celebration of the family of man. This immensely successful rock opera needs little introduction, but when it was first produced on Broadway in 1971 it broke new ground in its stage treatment of the historical Jesus Christ.

The third song in the musical, “Day by Day” — a prayer ascribed to the 13th English Bishop Saint Richard of Chichester — particularly captures people’s imagination. It summarizes our plea to see, love and follow God more openly. The lyrics of the haunting melodic number reads:

“Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day
Day by day, day by day
Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day.

”The song spent 14 weeks on the “Billboard Hot 100,” peaking at the number 13 position on July 29, 1972. “Billboard “ ranked it as the No. 90 song for 1972.

But more than its enormous commercial success it becomes a great “aide memoire” for people to be more generous, to give food to those who are hungry, to provide home for the homeless or the refugees (a very relevant concern today given the Syrian refugees seeking a safer haven), to die so others may live, and “to lose good things, to get better.”

A tough call indeed, but the only way we can share in this life is by seeing, loving and following Jesus and taking up our own cross so that death leads to life. The challenge of this Sunday’s Gospel is the challenge of the cross: to see that glory in our everyday lives. As the “Living Liturgy” states, “Good surrounds all of us; the cross invites us to see that good—out of pain and poverty can come a new life that has value, meaning, and purpose for self and others.”

OUR PRAYER:

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.

(St. Ignatius de Loyola)

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (September 6, 2015) Gospel

“He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 7.37)

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us to take some time to listen to sounds of silence. It is not about being deaf to the sounds of life, or the absence of sound, but the ability to hear and listen to life going around us and in us.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “Many now assume that effective modern communication implies being able to make the greatest noise amidst the bustle and confusion that is the world’s 24-hour rolling, new circus. But silence, as the Holy Father reminds us, is an extremely important part of communication, for without it, who could listen properly to what is being said?”

The principle is a revival of the song popularized in the 1960s by Simon and Garfunkel. In the third stanza of the song it says, “And in the naked light I saw, 10,000 people, maybe more, people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.

”Silence is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. Silence is the most beautiful doorway into prayer, peace, contemplation and true wisdom. Silence is also a discipline that leads to humility and to a love that does not seek to possess. Only the people who are truly silent can hear the whisperings of God’s love deep within their heart. Without silence we who claim to believe in him would never know God or be able to discern his will for us.

Our best move in certain situations is to keep our mouth shut and simply stay out of the way of people. We get into a spiral of bad communication tactics, and wind up outsmarting ourselves — perhaps making a position and then rejecting our own stance because we think we won’t agree with it.

Imagine a complainant who opens a conversation by saying that he understands us but will not budge from his stand before asking for some smaller compromise — and then maybe even convincing himself that even that is too much to ask for.

“We can observe a lot by watching and we can also learn a lot by listening.” That’s baseball legend Yogi Berra talking and reminding us of situations wherein we are asking a question and before we even finish our question, some people cut us and offer their own perspective. They don’t bother waiting and instead try to hurry us up with verbal prompts — “Uh-huh, uh-huh, right, right, right…” And when they ask for advice, what they really mean is, “Let’s fast-forward to the part where I tell you what I think, instead.”

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OUR PRAYER:

Dear Lord, “listen” has the same letters as “silent.” May we always listen to the silence of our heart so we will know what to do. Amen

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (August 23, 2015) Gospel: The Words Of Eternal Life – Jn 6:60-6

Many of his disciples were listening to Jesus’ teaching. They said, ‘This teaching is difficult. How can anyone take it seriously’”? (John 6.60)

This Sunday’s Gospel is all about choices. Our life is challenged with many choices — big, small, personal, professional, emotional, rational, spiritual and religious.

Responding to Christ’s difficult teachings, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. It’s a decisive moment indeed, but a very sad one.

Peter stayed because he has enough affection for Christ inside him to make this choice. It was not easy for Peter to leave, and his choice answered Jesus’ question – do you love me?

Truly, the most important choice we can make in life is our decision to follow and love Jesus. And this choice, like every other, also has impacts in, and consequences for the way we live our lives.

To choose to believe in Jesus and his teachings—including our belief that he is truly our Bread of Life—means to follow him in every aspect of our lives. There is no part of our life that can be compartmentalized or kept separate from the grace he offers or the demands that discipleship places upon us.

CHOICES IN OUR LIVES

Choice is a powerful idea. Its definition has become polluted in recent years, wrapped up in contentious battles over issues that make one choose between two extremes, where all things are argued in stark black and white. We have learned, and most of us have discovered, that almost everything in life is painted in shades of gray.

We have experienced doses of right and wrong choices. It feels wonderful whenever we make a difference in the choices we carry out. And we get overwhelmed when the choices lead to crisis. But when these wrong choices start to wear us down, we just remember one thing — there is God to trust.

We continuously face the most staggering array of choices. And we realize that we should not underestimate their range. The unhappiest people we meet have become the way they are, because they have imposed artificial limits on their lives.

We must always tell ourselves—take every choice that is offered to us. Have as much fun as we can, when we can. Dare to dream. Dare to fail. Dare to make a few mistakes along the way. Dare to reach out our hands into the darkness, to pull other hands into the light.

We must not shrink from the dreams. We must not shrink from the choices. We must not recoil from life.

OUR PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us not fear to love Jesus — to heed his words and follow his actions. May we receive the strength we need from Jesus, the bread of life to pursue a life according to your will. Amen.

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Sunday’s (June 21, 2015) Gospel: The Calming Of A Storm At Sea – Mk 4:35-41

“WHO THEN IS THIS WHOM EVEN THE WIND AND SEA OBEY?”

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus established that He is the Master of all Creation; that He is the Almighty One, and only the Almighty One can demand creation to follow His every command.

QUIET! BE STILL!

These three small but powerful words clearly bring to our attention that even if we may think that God is asleep or lacking in concentration to our predicament, all we need do is holler and He will be there. Our call should not be one of skepticism or fright: As He asked His disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” Our tonality, as we “shout out” should always have the confidence and the belief that He is there to help us and bring us to a state of calm.

WHAT? WE WORRY?

Setting up conditional happiness, success or other outcomes leads to ever-increasing negative feelings. But setting up dual happiness — happiness for both now and later — allows for good moments at any time. Dr. Spencer Johnson, best-selling co-author of “The One Minute Manager,” has advised people to live in the present without allowing negative attitudes to fester.

A setback is only one moment in time. It ends. The next moment is up to you. “Make that next moment one of learning and the growth will happen by and of itself. Before we know it, we will be where we wanted to be from the start,” Johnson emphasized.

Living, especially during these days, involves two areas: the things we can control and the things we can’t. Don’t worry about what we can’t control.

WORRYING IS A TOTAL WASTE OF ENERGY.

Train our focus on the future. It is something we can have power over. But don’t fret about it either. Move it. Manage it. What about the present? It’s in our hands. Live it the way we want to live it. Bring it to where we will be happiest even in challenging times such as today. Stay focused on what we want to happen, and we will attract exactly what we want.

Goals can be set. Positive experiences can be sought. Good news can be created. We just have to focus unfailingly on the picture, and to have trust in God. Happiness, after all, consists in getting what we desire and desiring what we have.

Let us avoid spending so much time worrying about the future, and learn to “be still” — to WAIT ON THE FATHER, OUR LORD. Why be terrified when we believe that God is by our side. As we weather the storms of our lives we must patiently and graciously wait for the Lord, and find the markers of the direction that He wants us to take — the path that can bring stillness and serenity to our souls.

OUR PRAYER:

Dear Lord, be with us in our journey, teach us to how to be quiet and to be still. Hold our hands when we are fearful; Fortify our trust in Your care. May You reinforce us with the wisdom to make the right decisions every time. Thank you for your unending presence and undying love. Amen.

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Key Takeaway In This Sunday’s (June 14, 2014) Gospel: Parables Of The Seed – Mk 4:26 -34

“This is how it is with the reign of God. A farmer scatters seed on the ground, goes to bed, and gets up day after day. Through it all the seed sprouts and grows without the farmer knowing how it happens. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4.26-28)

This Sunday’s Gospel is made up of two short parables that use the everyday occurrences in the lives of people.

Both narratives mirror people’s familiarity in planting seeds, and how the seeds develop into full-grown plants, but to us how a seed becomes a mature plant continues to be a mystery.

An acorn grows to a full oak tree because somebody waters, fertilizes, and nurtures it with love and care.

The Gospel also reminds us of the “WOMB TO TOMB” or “CRADLE TO GRAVE ” concept —- the cycle of life. How we take care of others, or how we are taken care of by others — in every stage of life — defines how we turn out as people.

Sowing, growing and developing a seed, just like giving birth to, nurturing and improving a human being is a test of our patience, love, hope and faith. The patience in how we give nutrients to those we care for so they may grow big, healthy and strong; the love to make them robust and compassionate, so they in turn may be able to extend the love and care to others; the faith that they will develop and expand to become something that is enormously noble and inclusive to showcase God’s great work in them, and the hope that everything will turn out right.

“PATIENCE is the art of caring slowly,” John Ciardi said. It can’t be acquired overnight. We need time and the willpower to make it grow. Patience is genius. As Gorge-Louis Leclerc de Buffon declared, “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on … hold fast … hold out.” Our authentic blessings often manifest to us in the form of hurts, defeats and disappointments, but if we have patience we will see these in proper perspectives.

God understands our hurts, defeats and disappointments. He loves us dearly. He is always present to hearten our hearts and help us appreciate that He’s enough for all of our needs. When we accept this LOVE as an unqualified reality in our life, our worrying will stop.

“FAITH is to believe what we do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what we believe,” Saint Augustine proclaimed, and quickly added, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on us.” Thus, our sowing, nurturing — from birth to death — must be guided with an unquestionable trust in Him.

When we have HOPE, we can make the present moment less hard to carry, because we trust that tomorrow will be an improved version of today. Bill Keane stated, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

OUR PRAYER:

Dear Lord, may we constantly have an ample supply of patience, love, faith and hope that we may be able to understand Your mysterious ways, as we help in sowing, nurturing and expanding the seed of Your affection and compassion. Amen.

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Without faith it’s impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), so our relationship with the Lord is dependent on it. Faith is what brings the things God has provided for us from the spiritual realm into the physical realm (Heb. 11:1). Our faith is the victory that enables us to overcome the world (1 John 5:4). Everything the Lord does for us is accessed through faith.

Yet there is much confusion about faith today just as there has always been. It’s like having a computer and knowing its potential but not having a clue how to use it. Many of us know how frustrating that is. The Bible is our manual with detailed instructions, but just like in the natural, few people take the time to really study it. They are impatient and want to do it on their own. They may reach some level of success, but to really be proficient, they have to read the book.

One of the areas about faith that gives people the most trouble is the concept that we have to acquire more faith and that some people have much faith, while others have virtually none. We spend a lot of effort, like a dog chasing its tail, trying to get something we already have. Every born-again Christian already has the same quality and quantity of faith that Jesus has. That’s awesome!

In Ephesians 2:8, Paul says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” It’s God’s grace that saves us, but not His grace alone. If that were so, then everyone would be saved because God’s grace has come to all men (Tit. 2:11).

We have to put faith in God’s grace, but the faith that we use isn’t our own human faith. This verse says that faith is the gift of God.

There is a human faith that is inherent within every human being, and there is a supernatural faith of God that only comes to those who receive the good news.

Human faith can only believe what it can see, taste, hear, smell, or feel; it’s limited to the five senses. Using natural human faith, we can sit in a chair we’ve never sat in and believe it will hold us up. We fly in airplanes when we don’t fully understand how they work, and we don’t know the pilot, but we trust that everything will be okay. That takes human faith, which God gave to every person.

What if I asked you to sit in a chair you couldn’t see? Or what if the chair was missing one of its legs and was falling over? You wouldn’t sit in a chair like that with human faith. Would you fly in a plane if you could see that the engine was falling off or the tires were flat? Your senses would forbid it.

Yet when it comes to God, we have to believe things that we cannot see. You haven’t seen God or the devil. You haven’t seen heaven or hell. You haven’t seen sin; therefore, you wouldn’t know what you would look like if your sins were taken away. However, you have to believe in all these things to be born again. How can you believe in things you can’t see? The answer is that you can’t believe in invisible things with human faith. You need God’s supernatural faith.

Romans 4:17 says, “God … calleth those things which be not as though they were.” God’s faith goes beyond sight. God’s faith operates supernaturally, beyond the limitations of our natural faith.

The context of this verse from Romans speaks about how God supernaturally blessed Abram and Sarai with a child in their old age. Abram was 100 and Sarai was 91 when Isaac was born. The year before Isaac’s birth, when Abram still did not have a child by his wife, God told them the child was coming, and He changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah. Abram meant “high father,” but Abraham means, “to be populous, father of a multitude.” God changed Abram’s name and called him the father of a multitude before it came to pass. Romans 4:17 explains this action by saying that “God calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

When the Lord created the universe, Genesis 1:3 tells us that He created light on the first day but didn’t create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19). The Lord called light into being first and four days later created a source for the light to come from. That’s not the way natural man does things. We are limited, but God calls things that are not as though they were. That’s supernatural.

That’s the kind of faith we have to use to receive salvation. We have to believe in God, whom we have not seen, and believe that our sins are forgiven, which we cannot prove by natural means. It takes God’s supernatural faith to receive salvation. Where do we get it from? We get it from God’s Word.

Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We access God’s faith through His Word.

When we hear God’s Word, the Holy Spirit empowers it, and if we receive the truth, God’s supernatural faith enters us. We were so destitute that we couldn’t even believe the good news on our own. God had to make His kind of faith available to us so that we could believe in Him and receive His salvation. We were saved by using God’s supernatural faith to receive His grace.

Once we receive God’s supernatural faith at salvation, it doesn’t leave us. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, FAITH, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (emphasis mine). Faith becomes a permanent part of our born-again spirits. We sometimes use the God kind of faith that’s present in our spirits and other times we don’t.The truth is, it is always present. There is no lack of faith within any true Christian. There is just a lack of knowing and using what God has already given us.

Romans 12:3 says, “God hath dealt to every man THE measure of faith” (emphasis mine). God didn’t give us different measures of faith; we all received THE measure of faith. If I were serving soup to a lot of people, and if I used the same ladle to dish it out, then that ladle would be THE measure. Everyone would get the same amount of soup because I would use the same measure. That’s the way it is with God’s faith. He only used one measure. All born-again Christians received the same amount of faith.

That’s what the Apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 1:1; “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that was translated “like precious” in this verse is “isotimos,” which means “of equal value or honor.” We have the same faith that Peter used when he raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-42) and when he made people whole by touching them with just his shadow (Acts 5:15).

We also have the same faith that Paul had. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Paul did not say that he lived by faith IN the Son of God but by the faith OF the Son of God. The measure of faith that Paul had was the same measure that Jesus had. It was Jesus’ faith. If there is only one measure of faith (Rom. 12:3), then we also have the faith of Jesus.

We have the same quantity and quality of faith that Jesus has; therefore, we can do the same works that Jesus did, if we receive this truth and begin to use what we have (John 14:12). Because many Christians have not understood this, they have spent their time asking for faith or for more faith. How is God going to answer a prayer like that?

If I gave you my Bible and then you turned around and asked me for my Bible, what could I do? I would probably stand there in silence while I tried to figure out what was wrong with you. That’s the reason there isn’t an answer when we beseech the Lord for more faith. We already have the same faith Jesus has.

Our Lord did say that He had never seen such great faith as the centurion manifested (Matt. 8:10), and He also spoke of His disciple’s little faith (Matt. 8:26), but He was speaking about how much faith He saw. None of us use all the faith we’ve been given.

In that sense, some do have more faith than others, but technically, it is more faith that is being exhibited or that is functional. We all have been given THE measure of faith.

This is a major truth that will totally change your attitude and the results that your faith produces. Most people don’t doubt that faith works. They just doubt that they have enough faith to get the job done. If Satan can blind you to this truth, then he can keep you from using the faith you have. Understanding this truth will radically change things.

Philemon 1:6 says, “hat the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” Notice that Paul isn’t praying that Philemon will get something more from the Lord. He was praying that his faith would begin to work as he acknowledged what he already had. The word “acknowledge” means, “to admit, recognize, or report the receipt of.” You can only acknowledge something that you already have. We already have the faith of God, and it will begin to work when we acknowledge this.

The more you know about faith and how it works, the better it will work for you. If all you knew was that you have the same faith Jesus has, then that would remove hopelessness and motivate you. People would eventually see results if they just kept trying, but they give up easily because they believe they don’t have what it takes. That is not true. The Lord has given us everything we need, including all the faith we need. We just need to acknowledge what we have and begin to learn the laws that govern the operation of God’s faith.

By Andrew Wommack

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