If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Let's Not Fail Them




The eighth and ninth chapters of Ezekiel’s prophecy illustrate why every Christian should pray often – if not daily – for our clergy. Chapter eight highlights the appalling abominations the Jewish clergy were committing against God, even in His Temple.

Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here,” God said to the prophet, who found every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel” carved on the walls.

But that was not all. Ezekiel also saw “seventy elders of the house of Israel . . . each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising.”

But that was not all. The chapter continues: “Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us . . .  .”  And a few verses later: [God] brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house . . . and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz” (i.e. the goddess of fertility).  

But that was not all. God brought Ezekiel into the inner court of the Temple where another dozen of the religious leaders had turned their “backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun  . . . .”

God’s patience ended in chapter nine. He told His angel: Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”

The mark would serve to protect them from what happens next.

God commanded another angel:“Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.” So they started with the elders who were before the temple.

And so the false shepherds, the hirelings, the wolves in sheep clothing inevitably met the judgment of God.

How does it happen that anyone can turn away from God after knowing Him? But perhaps the greater question is this: How does a pastor, elder, or priest turn back from following God? How do they who preach and teach about our great Savior, who perform intercessory prayers, and offer the sacraments, how do they think God is blind to the evil they do?

God is not blind. Patient, yes. But not blind. Ready to forgive, but ready also to execute wrath against any laity or clergy who insist on turning a stubborn shoulder to God.

People have not changed since Ezekiel’s time. And neither has God. And therein lays the alarming character of these two chapters.

Christian – Pray for your pastors and priests. Pray for your bishops. Pray for your deacons. Pray for your catechists. All of us – laity and clergy alike – are susceptible to the subtle schemes of Satan who roams the earth seeking souls to devour. What better way to scatter the many sheep than to first ruin their shepherds?

Christian – our clergy and leadership desperately need us to pray. Let’s not fail them.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tell It Again -- YouTube



God never made evangelism the purview of only the professional clergy. He also gave the laity that precious privilege.  I talk about it here: https://youtu.be/5405DO9fF6k

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Serpent's Bite -- Youtube Message

There is really only one antidote to the serpent's bite. Here is my latest Sunday Message: https://youtu.be/hxYK-c1BlBg

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tick-Tock

At the moment I’m pensive. As I move rapidly through my 6th decade – faster than I like to think about – I thought to share an observation I’ve made many, many times in the past.
It’s been my experience, as I’ve observed others, that by the time they realize God originally had a better plan for their life – it’s too late for them to get there. Time is always linear, from past to future. It never goes backward.

That doesn’t mean God cannot redeem anyone’s present and move it in a better direction. But ‘better’ always depends on us. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, then we will get what we always got.

And the clock doesn’t stop tick-ticking.

Not too often – but it has happened – I’ve also observed that when anyone does awaken to the clock and then appeals to the One who created the clock, God delights to intervene and change what otherwise would be an unfailingly empty future.

Live wisely. Years move far more rapidly than we realize – until we look backward.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fighting the Good Fight -- Sermon

Whatever your age. Whatever your health. Whatever your energy level. Persevere. Fight the good fight. Finish the course. Keep the faith. Here's my latest message of hope:  https://youtu.be/X-0BoDDJOxA
 
 
 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Homage to My Daddy . . .



I posted this a few years ago. I thought to repost it.
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Homage to My Daddy in Heaven
By Richard Maffeo

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! [Aramaic word for Daddy] Father! (Galatians 4:6)

Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him  . . . whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely . . . .  (Psalm 68:4-6)

 I call Him Lord so often I sometimes forget He’s my heavenly Daddy. I’m sorry when that happens. ‘Lord’ conjures for me a more distant relationship than the intimate bond ‘Daddy’ invokes.

In prayer last week, that intimacy stirred thoughts once again of my earthly father. Those who’ve followed my blogs for a while know Albert left me and my sister in 1954.  I was four, Andrea was not yet two. He wouldn’t keep out of other women’s beds, so Mom finally told him to pack his valise.

Andrea and I rarely saw him afterward. Three, maybe four times over the next decade and a half. Then, in 1968, when I was eighteen, I asked Mom to set a meeting with him at my paternal grandparents’ apartment. I wanted to know his side of the story. I wanted to know why he left me and Andrea.

My mind’s eye still sees him as he sat in the wing-backed chair in front of the living room window. I sat cross-legged on the carpet a few feet from him. Andrea and Mom sat on the sofa to my left, my grandmother on the flowered upholstered chair to the right of the couch. My grandfather softly drummed his fingers on the dining room table to my right.

“Why did you leave?”

Albert hardly hesitated. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Because I wanted to.”

That was 45 years ago. His words remain as chilling as if he spoke them last month.

I don’t know why that memory recently resurfaced while I was in prayer. I forgave Albert in November 2011 for what he’d done to me. The Lord had interrupted my prayer time and asked if I would forgive Albert. His question caught me by surprise, and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Would I forgive Al for casting me aside like a piece of trash? More to the point, could I forgive him?

“I’d like to,” I finally answered.

What happened next still warms me to think of it. The memory of Albert saying what he did remained – and yet remains – chiseled in my mind, but the memory then took a sudden and extraordinary turn. I was no longer sitting on the carpet. Instead, my heavenly Daddy was sitting on the carpet and I was sitting in His lap. His arms encircled me and I snuggled deep into His embrace. His warmth surrounded me. I could hear His heart beat, feel His breath on my hair. A great sense of quiet washed over me. I knew I was at home, at home in His arms.
Home. Oh, the security, serenity, the love and hope that word arouses within me.

Albert’s words, “Because I wanted to” no longer stung as they had in 1968 because now, in 2011, I could snuggle deeper into Daddy’s embrace. Albert’s cruelty dissipated like a mist burned away by the sun as my Daddy held me yet closer – because He understood how those words ripped a hole in me. I remember as I write this how – as this scene unfolded in my memory – I broke into a grin, looked him in the eyes and said without hesitation: “I forgive you.” 

Why shouldn’t I forgive the man? How could I not forgive the man? I was sitting in my real Daddy’s lap. Albert was never my father. He only impregnated my mother. He was no more my father than if he had raped her and she conceived. But my Daddy in heaven – oh, my Daddy has never left me, no matter how many reasons I gave Him in my life to do so. And even when I didn’t know it He was there, all the time, His arm around my shoulder, whispering encouragement to a young boy, who became a teenager, and then became a young man who would one day become the man at 63 who joyfully lifts his hands in worship of his Daddy in heaven.
Sitting in my heavenly Father’s arms, how could Albert’s cavalier rejection hurt me? I could feel only sympathy for the man who missed a lifetime of opportunities to be my earthly daddy.

Is it any wonder why I am so in love with my Daddy who art in heaven?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Not Wasting Time

Not Wasting Time with Dishonest Seekers

During the last 44 years I’ve spoken with many men and women who did not understand much about God or His word.  Most of them came to me with inquisitive hearts, honestly seeking answers to their questions. I always answered as best I could, while considering my own continuing journey to know more about Him. But there were also those who, like the Pharisees who came to Jesus trying to trap Him in some statement (Mark 12:13), or the Samaritan woman who at first wanted only to challenge Him (John 4:9-26), there were those who did not want to know truth, but instead wanted to justify their lifestyles or simply engage in an intellectual discussion for the sake only of entertainment.

In my earlier days as a Christian, wanting so much to share with others what I’d discovered about God, I made the mistake to argue. I should have taken my cue instead from Scripture and avoided such useless discussions. For example, St. Paul wrote, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). And Jesus said, “do not throw your pearls before swine, lest the trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6) 

I wish I had learned in those days what St. Bernadette knew: Our job is to inform, not to convince. It is, of course, only the Holy Spirit who can convince someone of “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8). Our job is to simply tell others what the Book says.

So I’ve recently changed my approach. When someone is honestly confused about Scripture and is seeking truth, I will explain what I know to the best of my current knowledge. But when I now suspect someone is simply looking to justify his or her sin-laden lifestyle, or to argue a point just to argue, I will give them an assignment to test their sincerity. If they are honest in their search for truth, they will take on the task. If they are not, they will brush off the assignment and we will have both saved ourselves from wasting time. Here is what I tell them about the assignment:
 
"If you really want to know truth, then go to the One who is truth and read what He said. Read the New Testament. Even if you have read the Bible in the past, please do so again. Two chapters a day will finish the New Testament in less than four months." 
 
"Use a good modern translation, preferably one without editorial commentary in the page margins. The New American Bible (Catholic Edition), the New King James Version, the New American Standard Version, or the New Revised Standard Version (Anglican or Catholic editions) are some of the high quality translations available. Start at Matthew’s gospel and continue reading a couple of chapters a day until you finish Revelation. Keep a journal and each day write what you have learned, or what questions come to mind. Send me weekly updates on your progress so we can talk each week about what you are learning."

I tell them when they finish the New Testament, we will sit and talk about any other questions they might have that still trouble them. We will talk for as long as necessary – months, if necessary.

I assign the New Testament not because I consider the Old of little value; On the contrary, one cannot fully understand the New Testament without a fluent familiarity of the Old Testament. As St. Augustine wrote: The New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New. But the questions most people ask are more readily answered through the pages of the New Testament. 

My God has done so much for me that I yearn to tell others of His great love and promises. But the older I get, the more I realize time is too short and too precious to waste discussing truth with those who are not really interested in more than sound-bites. Those who play theological games with God ought to be wary, for God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). But to those who seek Him with an honest heart, caring not about  the cost, God says, You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).