“Be not afraid”… of what? why, my own fear…

I’ve heard that the phrases “Be not afraid,” “Fear not,” “Take courage,” and other variations, are in Holy Scripture / the Bible 365 times. I am guessing that in the Catholic Bible (which has seven more books) there are EVEN more references! (Here’s one source.)

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Like Jesus, “Be not afraid!” was also a favorite saying of this Vicar of Christ, Blessed Pope John Paul II.

In regards to sin… of what am I “afraid”? What do I “fear”?

Certainly, when I sin, I do not feel “afraid” nor “fear.” Instead, I feel “tempted.”

When I sin, I feel like I need something or like I need to do something. But really, I only want something. And that something is not good for myself and/or others. No matter how hard it may be to see that, and no matter how easy it may be to rationalize that that something is not.

SIN: an act that goes against God’s Will.

No matter how small (e.g., “venial”) or how big (e.g., “mortal), I am hurting God’s heart BECAUSE I AM HURTING MYSELF. And God is weeping for me,  because He loves me (and His other children who I am hurting). Yes, via sin, I am always indirectly and/or directly hurting God, myself and others, since we are ALL connected.

BUT THEN I REMEMBER THIS…

God does NOT wants to control me or be “strict” with me, as if I am a robot! Rather, His desire is that I use my freedom to do what will NOT hurt me. He is THAT loving of a Father!

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Myself and my grandfather, who loved me with a fatherly love.

When I sin, yes, I AM afraid… I am afraid that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to function.

When I sin, I DO fear… I fear that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to be happy.

This Lent, I have come to ponder how my SINNING is the same as FEARING my own FEAR… fearing the very fear of my own lack of courage to do what is RIGHT… a very human tendency.

Sinning is fearing that if I do not get what I think I need… I will be helpless. But God wants to help me, and I hope that I can always trust, with childlike trust, that He knows what is BEST for me.  In Isaiah 55:8, He tells me, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”.

Virtue has never ever been deemed “easy.” It is much easier to live a mediocre, morally tepid, not-so-virtuous life. But God is calling me. And He’s telling me not to be afraid!

Not to be AFRAID of turning away from my tendency to go the easy route: to cling to sin.

Not to FEAR turning towards virtue: away from darkness and death, and into light and life.

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Like 14-year-old Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, one of the Mexican “Cristero” martyrs, did not FEAR his own FEAR… I, too, am called to let Christ conquer sin in me. #BlJLOraProNobis

Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

Evening Prayer (“Magnificat” version) this evening included James 1:15: “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

This reminded me of Blessed John Paul II’s term, “culture of death,” which includes sins of concupiscence / the flesh.

Such sins in particular destroy the human individual, marriages, families, and society at large. Via unchastity, the using and abuse of others, inordinate and excessive emphasis on worldly pleasures, a plethora of addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, masturbation), self-deprecation and mutilation, hatred, murder… the list goes on… the human soul no longer teems with life, but is blackened by death.

Even when it might “feel good” at first, the soul is slowly… being killed… dying. One day, it’s dead. It’s over.

And like James 1:15 says, it all starts in small, subtle ways. Very lovely-seeming ways. Our inordinate desires can deceive us. Satan uses them to steer us off course from the Giver of LIFE… from a Culture of LIFE.

But you know what is so beautiful?

Jesus Christ has already won the battle! By His Passion and His Resurrection.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

The question is: will I let Him conquer my heart?

O, if I but let the thorns of his crown pierce my hardened heart… it will become flesh again. It will become alive again.

I must think this over and over in Lent! How can I continually let Him give me life as He is wanting? More and more abundantly?

As Jesus said “no” three times to Satan, who was tempting Him in the desert (when He was famished from fasting), I too can say “no” to Satan.

I have nothing to fear! Only my mediocrity, my own lack of courage.

By saying no to my (inordinate) desires this Lent (with which Satan so subtly plays), I can let the Culture of LIFE triumph in this battle in the world of LIFE vs. death.

LIFE will win. Christ Jesus assures me of that!

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no sins to be sorry for?: the great deception

There’s a girl in the corner
With tear stains in her eyes
From the places she’s wandered
And the shame she can’t hide

She says, “How did I get here?”
I’m not who I once was
And I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love”

But don’t you know who you are,
What has been done for you?
Don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

Well, she tries to believe it
That she’s been given new life
Oh, but she can’t shake the feeling
That it’s not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try, oh

But don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done
But what’s been done for you

This is not about where you’ve been
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel
But what He felt to forgive you
And what He felt to make you loved

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade

–“You are More,” Tenth Avenue North

What I love the most about Christianity, besides Christ Himself, is the freedom and the joy that Christ bestows on His disciples.

Christ gives us freedom and joy with His endless mercy.

What scares me about humanity (myself included) is our pride and our thinking that there is “nothing wrong” with us and that we do not need mercy from God!

We think: “Well, there’s nothing wrong with me. Why do I need God’s mercy? What am I even sorry about? Nothing. To each his own. I’m going to do what I want. I’ve been doing it all along. I know what’s best for me.”

How can people feel guilty about their mistakes, when they don’t even think they’ve made any mistakes?

And who are we really kidding? Only ourselves.

We are being greatly deceived. Myself included. It is with this prideful attitude that darkness and lies will slowly become our gods. Only with a humble attitude can we be set free, in joy, when we find out “who we are” (as Tenth Avenue North asks: “don’t you know who you are?”): people made for Light and Truth!

In her “Diary,” Saint Faustina wrote about the Infinite, Endless Mercy of Christ! This young woman saint was nearly swept away by Christ’s unbelievable statements regarding His immense ocean of mercy, forgiveness, and love!

We can only receive mercy, forgiveness, and love, however, after we say sorry. We shouldn’t find things to unnecessarily feel guilty about, but we should ask: How can I improve in loving God, myself, and others? In a healthy way, do I feel sorry about the ways I could have or can do better?

This Lent, I want to really purify my heart, and discover in what areas I am filled with pride. I am in denial of many of my sins. How can I empty these areas out, and fill them with grace, the very “life of Christ within me” (the Catechism’s definition of “grace”)?

Here are a couple of excerpts I stumbled across in Saint Faustina’s Diary and immediately loved. They are from the end of “Notebook V” (there are six altogether):

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+ God’s Infinite Goodness in Adorning the Whole World with Beauty
in Order to Make Man’s Stay on Earth Pleasant.

O God, how generously Your mercy is spread everywhere, and You have done all this for
man. Oh, how much You must love him, since Your love is so active on his behalf. O my
Creator and Lord, I see on all sides the trace of Your hand and the seal of Your mercy,
which embraces all created things. O my most compassionate Creator, I want to give You
worship on behalf of all creatures and all inanimate creation; I call on the whole universe to
glorify Your mercy. Oh, how great is Your goodness, O God!

1750

Be adored, O our Creator and Lord.
O universe, humbly glorify your God;
Thank your Creator to the best of your powers
And praise God’s incomprehensible mercy.

Come, O earth, in all your fine greenery;
Come, you too, O fathomless sea.
Let your gratitude become a loving song ,
And sing the greatness of God’s mercy.

Come, beautiful, radiant sun.
Come, bright dawn which precedes it.
Join in one hymn, and let your clear voices
Sing in one accord God’s great mercy.

Come, hills and valleys, sighing woods and thickets,
Come, lovely flowers of morningtide;
Let your unique scent
Adore and glorify God’s mercy.

Come, all you lovely things of earth,
Which man does not cease to wonder at.
Come, adore God in your harmony,
Glorifying God’s inconceivable mercy.

Come, indelible beauty of all the earth,
And, with great humility, adore your Creator,
For all things are locked in His mercy,
With one mighty voice all things cry out; how great is the mercy of God.

But above all these beauties,
A more pleasing praise to God
Is a soul innocent and filled with childlike trust,
Which, through grace, is closely bound to Him.

If you want to download and read Saint Faustina’s entire “Diary” for free, click here: Pray Divine Mercy.

Freedom, joy, and rest?: LORD Jesus Christ, You are who my heart has been looking for all this time! What goodness you offer to me, o LORD! You ARE Mercy. You ARE Love. And I am Yours. I know who I am.

God wants your heart.. AND SO DOES SATAN.

Spiritual warfare exists. Every day, God pursues your heart. And so does Satan.

I swear. I just experienced it very keenly about an hour ago.

Yet I realize… it’s an every day battle. In the little things and the big things. There is always a battle for our heart.

Satan wants to detour you from staying in God’s Kingdom, from forever residing with God. And boy, is Satan deceptively cunning. He attracts. After all, He was one of God’s highest and most beautiful angels.

He wants your soul for all the selfish reasons… because he does not want you to experience happiness– the happiness that he willingly lost.

So ask yourself… and be honest…

Who are you living for? Who will you die for? Who are you fighting for?

God? Or Satan?

If we’re not for God, we’re against Him. Perhaps we’re running away from the Light for which we were made. Perhaps we’re hiding. But it’s not bringing us any closer.

Yet God is pursuing us… Are you listening? Are you watching out for Him?

Oftentimes, I find I am not. But I want this to change. I want to keep getting better and better at these practices. I don’t want my heart to be stolen without my knowing.

Saint Benedict is awesome because he reminds us about our mortality and our consequent propensity to weakness. In fact, Saint Benedict is often known as a “patron of a happy death.” The front of his medal reads: “May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death.”

The back of the medal of Saint Benedict reads: “May the Holy Cross be my Light! May the Dragon never be my guide!” (The “Dragon?” Satan.) And under the word “Peace,” it also reads: “Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!

Now what’s “the poison,” you ask?

According to the legend of Saint Benedict, during a Mass in which he was to consecrate bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ, hostile monks attempted to poison him, and poisoned the communion bread and wine. However, when Saint Benedict tried to bless the wine, the cup in which it was contained shattered when he made the sign of the cross over it. This cup is featured on his medal. Supposedly, a raven (also featured on the medal) flew in and carried away the poisoned bread before Saint Benedict consecrated it as well.

Saint Benedict is said to be one of the greatest saints to call upon for deliverance from evil spirits. The Benedictine Crucifix– a crucifix with the medal of Saint Benedict on it– is used in exorcisms.  And with Whose power does Saint Benedict ward off demons? CHRIST’S.

Let us never forget that while we can experience the amazing, wonderful power of GOD, another opposing power equally exists, and it is that of Satan.

We must be keenly aware of spiritual warfare and how Satan wants our heart. More importantly, we must also be confident and vigilant in knowing that, so long as we continue to follow Christ’s Light, God will protect our heart with all that He is!

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(c) SouthernFriedCatholicism. Read more about the medal below!

“Southern Fried Catholicism” Blog

the happiest people

I think that the happiest people are the ones who admit when they are wrong.

The happiest people are the ones who can own their past faults with no shame, knowing God’s mercy reigns.

The happiest people are the ones who can be sorry for their sins, acknowledge they must change, try their best to change, then smile at their own humanity during the entire journey to change.

There are no secrets with the happiest people. Rather, there is but one truth to proclaim to the world: Jesus, the King of Light, has come to dispel the darkness of the world!

“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

People who revel in their imperfection show the world that they are loved perfectly… by a God Who Himself is Love. They are their own kind of beautiful in Him. And they are proud.

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Eucharistic LORD: You never change!

It’s so awesome to know that no matter where you are in the world, if you go to Mass, you can expect to see and to receive the very same LORD Jesus Christ: present there before you, body, blood, soul, and divinity… and to enter into you wholly.

Hebrews 13:8-9 reads: “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. For it is best that the heart be established with grace….”.

Truly, Our LORD is always the same. In the light and in the dark, in the ups and in the downs, in the certainty and in the confusion… may we not only know, but believe and feel that He is LORD of Heaven and Earth, for all eternity.

Jesus, You never change. I at times feel like I change with the wind. But let me know that I am always your beloved daughter, no matter what. In the light and in the goodness (that I can only do through Your grace)… in the dark and in the sin… I am always loved by You, Love Himself.

May You, in the Eucharist, be the source and the summit of my life! Until we meet alas face to face.

You never change. Give me the grace to have a faith as true as Yours to me.

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“giving up chocolate for Lent” = finding grace in the wilderness?!

“The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…. I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:2,3

Finding grace in the wilderness… now that’s what Lent is about.

What’s that “wilderness”? It’s that emptiness, that wild place that you’re left when you’ve said no to your desires and will and you’ve said yes to that vast unknown called “God’s Will”: what He desires for your life.

How do we find grace in the wilderness? By abandoning ourselves. How can we do this? Well, yes, even by little things such as “giving up chocolate” for Lent. I know everyone beats up on that idea, but there indeed can be deep meaning behind such a simple sacrifice. So, speaking of chocolate…

Last night, my professor passed around Hershey kisses. I grabbed a few, only to realize: Hey, it’s Lent… maybe I should put these down. Then I gave myself an excuse: Well, I’ve already got them here in front of me… it’s too late. I just couldn’t handle the temptation. I then proceeded to enjoy all three chocolate kisses within a couple minutes.

Nope, I didn’t “give up chocolate” for Lent. In fact, I gave up a plethora of other things (and added in some new things I’d like to do, too).  But still…. it was so hard to say no to those three little pieces of chocolate. And after I ate them, I knew that I had missed an opportunity to tell our Lord “I love You.”

Tonight, I face a similar battle. Yes, as I write this post!

The Valentine’s Day cookies that my nephew and I made are beckoning me. However, I realize that my saying no to having a cookie can be a simple “yes” to God.

“Yes, Lord, I love you more than this cookie.”

“Yes, Lord, I love you more than these three Hershey kisses.”

Eventually, with an attitude like this, in which we gladly die to ourselves in the little things, we can find strength say no to the big things– including the big sins.

When we practice saying no to little harmless desires, we will one day find ourselves being able to say no to bigger harmful temptations. It is then that we can say: “Yes, Lord, I love you more than this sin, which I know is not good for my soul, or anyone else’s…. and which I know hurts You.”

As we detach from ourselves this Lent, may we find grace in the wilderness, and attach our hearts to Our Lord!

May we be able to say no to the chocolate, and via such little ways, come to love Him with an everlasting love, just as He loves us!

After all, love works and builds bit by bit… struggle by struggle… kiss by kiss. 😉

kisses