Tag Archives: Modern Day Bible Stories

It’s Weeding Time!

Yesterday’s Gospel reading about the parable of the sowing of seeds reminded me that my “soil” or soul probably needs a little weeding…just like most farms or vegetable gardens at this time of year (and for sure our backyard patio!) Being a writer or storyteller myself,  I love that Jesus often talked in parables or stories full of description so that we of little understanding could get what He was saying – back then and now.

In Matthew’s Gospel (13:1-23), He tells of a farmer who goes to sow his seed; some gets eaten up by the birds, some falls on rocks, some falls in shallow soil and gets scorched, some falls among thorns (or weeds) and got choked, and some falls on good soil and grows and produces crops. “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means,” Jesus explains.  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I have been struggling in trying to grow closer to God despite feeling overwhelmed with my workload and scattered in different directions, in trying to know and do His Will in my writing career despite worrying about a lack of income and difficulties with finances,  in trying to find peace and joy in each day despite feeling worried about the future, and in trying to know Him better by improving my relationships with other people despite worrying they are resisting me because of their own resentments. I see that all of these thoughts and feelings that stand in my way are like weeds…I hear God’s word and start to have a little faith in His care, but then the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” choke it out and I become anxious, irritable and discontent – over and over again.

In another parable immediately following in the same Gospel, Jesus actually talks about weeding! Basically, He says the enemy sows these weeds but the landowner (God) decides not to pull the weeds for fear of uprooting the wheat growing alongside them. This tells me that I should be very careful when pulling out my weeds. If you’ve ever weeded a garden in frustration or impatiently, I’m sure you’ve probably pulled up a plant or two by accident. I’ve done this before and was upset that I actually lost some budding vegetables or fruit I didn’t want to lose. So in getting rid of negative thoughts, worries, negative behaviors or even negative people, I am also reminded to be gentle and loving – so as not to cause harm to myself or others. In another words, when I lay aside feelings of being overwhelmed in my work, I can’t do so and be slothful and just not work at all; when I try to forget my financial worries, I can’t do so and completely forget my financial responsibility to my household; when I try to stay in the day, that doesn’t mean I can’t make plans for the future; and when I try to let go of resentments I feel about others hurting me out of their own resentments, I need to be patient and not cut them off altogether but perhaps give them time and space.

Lord, I pray that you help me be more fruitful by helping me to gently get rid of any thorns or weeds choking my productivity and my spiritual growth. 

 

 

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Raising the Bar…

3xebneI’ll never forget when my husband was going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) program with our church to convert to Catholicism (and marry me!) and I attended meetings with him as one of his sponsors, what the priest, Father (now Monsignor) John Hopkins, said in response to a question raised about “why become Catholic?” As in, what makes the Catholic church any different than any other church? And Fr. John answered, “I guess it’s because we raise the bar.” If you knew Fr. John (an extremely humble man) you’d know that he didn’t say it in any sort of arrogant way, but meant it’s because the Catholic Church calls believers to follow the teachings of Christ and the Word of God in the Bible to the utmost degree, not diverting in any way, nor leaving anything up to our own (or anyone else’s) interpretation. For example, the Church calls us to strive to be saints and to participate in the Sacraments including Confession, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Communion, in which we actually participate in the Last Supper and eat of Christ’s body, as He commanded us to do “in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19) Much the same way, Jesus raised the bar for the Jews back in His day, and for us today, through His example and teachings.  He told the people “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” To paraphrase, He tells the people that the Commandments are a good start, but we have to go further…not only to “not murder” but to not hold any anger in our heart, not only to “not commit adultery” but to get rid of any lustful thoughts, not only to “not bear false witness” but to not swear at all. (Matt 5:17-37) Often people refer to Jesus when they defend the secular world, saying He opened His arms to everyone including sinners. But that’s a convenient way to let ourselves off the hook I think. Better to keep striving to reach higher as a Christian and to keep striving to enter through the “narrow gate” than to take our chances of just getting by and possibly missing the ultimate reward of being with Him one day in paradise.

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Blessed are they…

march-for-lifeI was proud of those who marched Friday in the 45th annual 2017 March for Life, and proud of those who had the courage to speak out against abortion. In Sunday’s Gospel reading in mass from Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus gives us the beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” I truly believe that those who march for life and against abortion are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Later in this same chapter, Jesus goes on to speak about the law, anger, divorce, adultery, swearing, retaliation and love of enemies – and on each topic, He “raises the bar” on all of these, giving the Jews at the time a more strict definition of what it means to obey God’s commands. I wonder what Jesus would have said on the Right to Life issue if He was with us today? I’m thinking that He would have been one of the crowd marching, or maybe even one of the speakers! Later in Matthew’s Gospel, there is a story of the King (Jesus) sitting on the throne, separating the sheep (those who obey God’s laws) from the goats (those who do not) to pass final judgement. To the sheep,  “the King will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ And to the goats He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 25: 40-46) Certainly the unborn who cannot speak for themselves can be considered among the “least” I would think. Lord, I pray today that we all help and support, even if only in prayer, the mothers, fathers and families struggling with bringing a child into this world, that You help them know they are loved. 

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Religion and Politics…

march-on-washington1Are you pro-Trump or anti-Trump? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you unsure about which side you’re on,  or sure but afraid to speak out for fear of being unpopular? Today more than ever before with the recent inauguration of our new US President and the protests that have followed, people seem to be speaking out on how they feel on religion and politics…or holding back on how they feel out of fear they might be harassed or bullied for voicing their opinions. This past election has divided families and friends in America almost like the Civil War. And yet, even after that war, where brother fought brother over their strong convictions, people did eventually come together again as believers in God and His Word. I hope they will again soon. It’s obviously important to have convictions. I consider myself first a child of God and a Christian; I am also a woman but I believe in pro-life because that’s what the Bible – God’s Word – tells us that’s what God is about. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jer 1:5) And I can’t justify my rights as a woman to choose if they conflict with my beliefs as a Christian. I hesitated on speaking out on this subject at a recent gathering of friends because there were a few vocal women talking against the new president. I knew if I debated them  it would cause more harm than good just to get across my convictions or beliefs on religion and politics. I’m glad the March for Women’s Rights was peaceful this past weekend. But I’m also disappointed that, although the march focused on being “for” various issues, many protesters were “anti” Trump more than anything else. This week in the Catholic Church is dedicated as the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” It couldn’t come at a better time, in the world at large, but especially in America.  I believe we should focus on our common faith and spiritual beliefs, not our different religious or political views, we should move forward from this election supporting each other and our country instead of trying to keep tearing them down, we should promote peace instead of protest, especially in these fractious times, and we should work together for the common good. Just as Jesus embraced the Gentiles with the Jews and encouraged them to love each other, we need to be tolerant, accepting, even loving toward those who disagree with us, in our words and actions. As St. Paul says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” Amen.

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How Do We Stay Excited?

Long Distance RunnerSo…Christmas is over, the anticipation of looking forward to the New Year is already waning, it’s the dead of winter in many parts of the world (including where I live in Maryland), and perhaps the road ahead, continuing to take the steps needed to achieving the goals you set and reaching your finish line, seems very long. Perhaps even the winter blahs or even a mild case of depression is starting to sink in, especially if (like me) you don’t have any warm, tropical destination plans for the future. So…what’s next? How do we stay excited at this time of year? Maybe it’s time to call in the “big guns” and ask the Holy Spirit for a little help remaining spiritually motivated! Yesterday the Gospel reading in Mass was about John the Baptist seeing Jesus coming toward him and saying this was the Messiah of Whom he had prophesied.  Imagine John’s excitement! Then, “the next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means “Teacher”), ‘where are you staying?’   ‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see’. So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him.” (John 1:35-39). Imagine Andrew and his brother Simon (Peter)’s excitement! Imagine our excitement if Jesus, the Messiah, was to walk up to us today! Would we see Him? Recognize Him? And yet, we are called to follow Him every day just like the disciples did. But again, what’s next, and how do we get and stay excited? I think we need to be just like the disciples in this story. First, I think we need to be open to seeking Him in others, and within ourselves, every day. Second, I think we need to answer Jesus’ question, “What do you want?” If we can answer that question in our hearts and simply ask where He’s staying (where can we find Him today?) and have faith that if we but come and follow, we will “see” as He promises, I think we have a good chance in staying spiritually motivated. And since He’s not here physically like He was for the disciples back then but sent His Holy Spirit to us, I believe calling on the Spirit’s power, grace, strength and guidance will help us stay on the course. Every day I think we are called to wake up with spiritual goals. For me, it’s not too much of a stretch as I am called to write Modern Day Bible Stories, contemporary novels that re-imagine God’s Word in the Old Testaments stories to inspire readers today. But even I get stuck a lot, which is why I need to follow my own advice and call on the Holy Spirit to help me write, and continue to give me faith that this calling will eventually pay the bills! In addition, my spiritual goals include finishing reading the Old Testament from start to finish (a page or two a day…I am getting close to being finished after nearly three years!); and being of service (following Jesus) when opportunities present themselves, whether that means doing something nice for someone, showing grace or forgiveness, or just paying a compliment or encouraging someone. As I write this, I feel re-energized and excited to face the day, one step at a time, and not look too far down the road because I know, Jesus promises us in fact (in the Book of Revelation), that I will win the race! 

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To have a friend…

3 amigosYou’ve probably heard of the saying, “to have a friend you’ve got to be a friend.” Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. So it’s not always easy. Friendship takes time, effort, patience, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, love. Yet we all know that good, true friends – the kind that will support and love you unconditionally, through thick and thin, are hard to find, and well worth what it takes to keep. Jesus told us and showed us how to be a good human being, a son, a brother, and a friend.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15). What a bunch of friends Jesus had! Judas who betrayed him, Peter who denied knowing him when the going got tough, Thomas who didn’t believe in him…and yet he showed us how to forgive (seventy times seven times if that’s what it takes!) and be encouraging and patient (telling them to go out and fish again) and loving (in so many ways). I feel sad that some of my friends over the years have grown distant or fallen away, mostly because of my lack of effort, or because I have let unmet expectations get in the way. It reminds me to look at the friends right in front of me today…and to be a friend to them. God often helps me grow and speaks to me through my friends. But mainly I get to know and love myself and God a little more through good friends. To all of my friends, in the past, in the present, and those yet to be in the future, thank you and I love you.

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Rainy days and Mondays…

bald-eagle-wallpapers-flightSome Monday mornings are harder than others…sometimes we feel too tired or downhearted to face the day. After pulling my back and spending a weekend trying to rest (which is quite difficult for me, always with so much to do),  I woke up feeling this way, and the loss of an hour of sleep (daylight savings time) and dreary winter scenery outside – bare trees, dark gray sky and a steady rain falling – didn’t help.  I believe it’s times like these we especially need to turn to God and ask for his strength. I took a few minutes to do that…and I then felt a renewed energy and a small voice said, “go, get to work, it will all be ok.” So for all of you out there who may be feeling downtrodden today, I offer you the song “We Will Rise Again” written by David Haas (just click on photo to hear it) that always brings me to joyful tears with beautiful lyrics taken from Isaiah 40:1-31: “Like a shepherd I will feed you; I will gather you with care. I will lead you and hold you close to my heart.  I am strength to the weary; to the weak I am new life. Though the young may grow weary, I will be their hope.  (Refrain) We will run and not grow weary, for our God will be our strength, and we will fly like the eagle, we will rise again. Lift up your eyes, and see who made the stars. I lead you, and I know you, I call you each by name. Fear not, I am with you; I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; uphold you with my hand.” No matter what I hope you have a blessed day!

 

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