Volume 2 No. 73 April 26, 2012 If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
Table of Contents
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Guest Editorial: My VBS Experience by Sheena Mathew, MBA
2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (April 29)
Second Sunday after New Sunday
3. Sermons for This Sunday (April 29)
They shall see his face. ...
In the presence of the one that moved mountains of sin and unawareness and brought them to the feast of God, the disciples found reason to surrender. Might we also be humbled by the God who refuses to leave despite words we shout in protest, despite refusals to surrender, despite ourselves. Might we be awed by the one who says, "Follow me!" and expects us to trust that he will not leave or forsake us. And might we marvel at the God who, carrying in his own body the scars of defeat, invites us to the nearness that is victory. ...
How often is the Lord Jesus knocking at our door to gain our attention to something, and we are not listening? ... He hears the inner thoughts and intents of our hearts. As our hearts cry out to Him, He hears these things, and a book of remembrance is written, while we talk together, and while we commune together, and while we discuss these perplexing circumstances we do not understand. Every one of those prayers are written and remembered before the throne, and in His good time, He answers them. ...
How well do you understand the extent of Jesus' love? This love, in its truest, supernatural form, can make the difference in our relationships with others. But the only way this is possible is if the love of Jesus has already made the difference in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. The Gospel of John tells how Jesus demonstrated this love to His disciples in chapter 21. ...
This is love in the making. The love of God is not created - it is His nature. When we receive the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit, He unites us with God so that His love is demonstrated in us. The goal of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was. ...
Unless we are experiencing the hurt of facing every deception about ourselves, we have hindered the work of the Word of God in our lives. The Word of God inflicts hurt on us more than sin ever could, because sin dulls our senses. ...
This article was published in July, 1910 edition of MEDICAL REVIEW OF REVIEWS. It is amazing that Dr. Gould described hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder so accurately more than 100 years ago. It also predicted the problems we will have with high sugar and refined flour diets. ...
These make a great healthy mid-morning snack!
Do you Love Me?
One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Ah the beauty of God's
creation is beyond description.
As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the
Lord's presence with me. He asked me, "Do you love me?"¯ ...
One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Ah the beauty of God's creation is beyond description. As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the Lord's presence with me. He asked me, "Do you love me?"¯ ...
Although this article deals with Catholic Church, it has great relevance to our church. We are also faced with our members leaving the church en-mass to Pentecostal Churches, Prayer Groups, Malankara Rite Church etc. I am not sure if any introspection or studies have been conducted to determine the exact cause. My own informal conversations with disgruntled members revealed that issues such as lack of emphasis on bible studies, poor or no sermons, "poor public relations" as Fr. Barron points out in this article are quite relevant in our church too. ...
14. Christian Life
"Does the Son of God live again through us? That's also part of Jesus' prayer for us -- that the world will see Christ in us, through our unity and through our love.
[Editor's Note: I am about to conclude by visit to Kerala. This provided me an opportunity to experience many activities conducted by our church. I will be writing about them in the future edition of the MW Journal. Here is an article written by an young rising star of our church as to her experience with leading the VBS in our church this year. Enjoy.]
My VBS Experience
by Sheena Mathew, MBA
This is my first serious article and I request the readers to be kind enough to understand and forgive me for not standing up to their expectations.
Based in Kerala, Our church, St. Mary's Jacobite Church, East Pampady, is one of the oldest Jacobite churches under the Kottayam Diocese. God has always blessed me by showering His grace upon me in umpteen number of ways. This time He gave me the privilege of being the Assistant Director of the "Jacobite Syrian Vacation Bible studies" camp held in our church. Being in charge of a group of about 98 students was quite an experience. Being in love with kids from my very small age I was totally blessed and on top of the world when I was given the charge of the camp and asked to carryout several duties as part of the VBS 2012. The primary task among them was to teach music to these students. Although I had been involved actively with our church choir and is quite comfortable with the music in the liturgy, this task was very challenging because it required us to keep these kids energized all the time.
Our camp started on April 9, 2012, the day after Easter. The camp started with usual registration process, categorizing the kids into different classes based on their age, as Beginners, Sub-Juniors, Juniors and seniors. The camp was held in the church for the next 7 days with loads of singing, games and studying - all based on the theme of the year which was: "Abide in the Tabernacle" taken from Psalm 15:1.
Everyday the camp would start with the prayer, followed by music practice. Later they would attend classes based on the theme - various means to Abide in the Tabernacle, called as God. The students were taken through the various points of being truthful, doing good to neighbours, respecting our elders and the leaders of the church etc. based on Psalms 15. The purpose of the camp was to make sure that the kids are all active participants in all the activities organised, to bring out their strengths and nurture them so that they could do the best for the church. With this in mind the camp not only had studies and classes, but also had a Day of Service, Day of Giving, Day of Beauty and the Rally. It was really an experience to see children of age between 5- 15 working hard and being an active participant in various activities of the camp.
By the end of the 7-day camp, it was not only an experience for the kids but also came as a blessing to the teachers and all the others in charge of the camp.
It definitely was an experience and a blessing for me. I was awakened spiritually. I had a chance to Taste our God. I continue to experience God's grace to this very day. It also provided me an emotional uplift; I got an opportunity to fine-tune my Leadership skills, Interpersonal skills, Communication skills etc.
God really does wonders in each and everyone's life. Every day is a miracle, and unexpected things do happen to people who believe that God can do wonders with your life. It is up to each person to see that blessing, grab it and and use it to the maximum to spread his goodwill to others. Be thankful to God for each and every circumstances that you are going through. Accept life as it comes, and do Everything as a Worship and Praise to God. Your life will definitely will be a miracle and you will see beauty in each second of your life.
This Sunday in Church
Second Sunday after New Sunday
This Week's Features
|Inspiration for Today|
They shall see his face.
I beseech thee shew me thy glory. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. -- No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. -- I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh.
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. -- I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. -- We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. -- The Lord himself shall descend from heaven ... the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Source: REV. 22:4. Exo. 33:18,20. -John 1:18. Rev 1:7. ‑Num. 24:17. Job 19:25,26. ‑Psa. 17:15. ‑I John 3:2. -I Thes. 4:16,17.
by Jill Carattini
The disciples of Jesus had been through more in two weeks than most can say of a lifetime. They were undoubtedly exhausted and confused, still processing all that had taken place. Recounting words, reliving experiences—everything they knew was touched and altered in the three years they spent with Jesus of Nazareth. They were fishermen, tax collectors, and physicians who became students, friends, and followers of a rabbi that set something terrible and wonderful in motion; even if they did not yet have their minds around it, there was an awareness that they were standing in the midst of something big, maybe sacred. They saw him perform miracles. They saw him worshipped and despised. They saw him beaten and killed and buried. They saw the body. And then they saw him alive—twice.
Early in the morning, possibly out of habit, possibly out of a need to be in waters familiar to their time with the one they just lost, the disciples went fishing.(1) As they were out in the boat, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize who it was. From the shore he called out, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
"No," they answered.
"Throw your net on the right side of the boat," he said, "and you will find some."
Perhaps since they had hopelessly exhausted all other options, perhaps because the advice seemed oddly familiar, they listened to the advice from the shore.(2) And when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Immediately one of them cried out in recognition: "It is the Lord!" As soon as Peter heard it, he eagerly jumped into the water and swam to the shore. The other disciples hurriedly followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish. When they came ashore, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it and some bread. And Jesus invited them to "Come and have breakfast."
Whether it is the first or the fiftieth time hearing John's retelling of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, it is a story that saturates its readers with anticipation. It is a story to rightfully get caught up in. Once again in the presence of the one who called them to follow, the disciples approach the fire, their hearts burning within them as they stand beside the body they saw bloodied and buried. And in this third appearance of the one they saw scandalously beaten and killed, Jesus invites them, plainly, ordinarily, oddly to eat with him.
Floored by these tremors of a divine mystery, the disciples were silenced before the life before them; they were surrendered to the shock of something beyond them in the presence of Christ. John recounts the common sentiment among them. "None of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' For they knew it was the Lord."(3)
There was a time when I found myself yearning to add a voice to that fireside quietness. Struggling with the God whose persistence I found exhausting, whose very will required me to repeatedly relinquish my mind and being, unlike the disciples, I did dare to ask. "Who are you?" I wanted to shout. "And what do you want from me?"
Yet as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne once wrote, there are triumphant defeats that rival victories. Along the human road of finding God, surrender seems an unavoidable illustration, a struggle that begins again every day as if nothing had yet been done. But though that may seem a daunting prospect, it is in this great surrendering where we can find, in Fredrick Buechner words, "the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God."
In the presence of the one that moved mountains of sin and unawareness and brought them to the feast of God, the disciples found reason to surrender. Might we also be humbled by the God who refuses to leave despite words we shout in protest, despite refusals to surrender, despite ourselves. Might we be awed by the one who says, "Follow me!" and expects us to trust that he will not leave or forsake us. And might we marvel at the God who, carrying in his own body the scars of defeat, invites us to the nearness that is victory.
(1) cf. John 21.
Copyright (c) 2011 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Jill Carattini is managing editor of 'A Slice of Infinity' at RZIM in Atlanta, Georgia.
by Ralph Bouma
In Mark 16:10 we read, "And she went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and wept." The disciples had no knowledge of what this was all about. Jesus was hidden from them.
Luke 24:11 says , "And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." This was after the women came and told the disciples that He had risen as He had said He was going to. They just could not believe it. They could not understand it. The Lord Jesus had withheld their eyes from seeing.
Now we read in verses 14 and 15: "And they talked together of all these things which had happened. While they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them."
When you and I have riddles, problems and perplexing things happen to us, we come together and talk about it. We discuss these things and pray about these things. He began to unfold the Scriptures to them concerning Himself, but they did not realize it was Jesus they were talking to. They did not see the Lord Jesus Christ in their trial. They did not see Him even though He was walking with them and talking with them.
How often is the Lord Jesus knocking at our door to gain our attention to something, and we are not listening? How often do we not behold Him? That word behold means now listen, take notice, understand.
In Revelation 3:20 what was the Lord Jesus knocking on their door for them to understand? We read that in the previous verses. Verse 17 says: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Their ignorance was their problem, and we are so often not cognizant of why the Lord Jesus is dealing with us. Their problem was complacency. They were too self-sufficient. They had come to the point where they were too capable of walking without Him.
He says in verse 18: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." When we start to see how naked we are before a holy and righteous God, then we start to understand that we need the clothing of that fine linen, which is the perfect robe of Christ’s righteousness.
What does it mean to anoint your eyes with eyesalve? When the Lord Jesus Christ opened the eyes of the one born blind, He spit on the ground and took the dust and the spittle and made eyesalve and opened the eyes of the one born blind.
Continuing in verse 19 we read, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." We have to have our eyes opened to see that Jesus is in these very trials, that He is doing these things to get us to focus our eyes on Him.
The Lord may be hidden from our eyes while we are communing together and talking together. I want you to see though how the Lord is there. In Malachi 3:16 we read, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon His name."
This is synonymous with the context of our text. While they communed and reasoned, Jesus drew near. The Lord bows down His ear, and He hears this conversation. He hears the inner thoughts and intents of our hearts. As our hearts cry out to Him, He hears these things, and a book of remembrance is written, while we talk together, and while we commune together, and while we discuss these perplexing circumstances we do not understand. Every one of those prayers are written and remembered before the throne, and in His good time, He answers them. Amen.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
How well do you understand the extent of Jesus' love? This love, in its truest, supernatural form, can make the difference in our relationships with others. But the only way this is possible is if the love of Jesus has already made the difference in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. The Gospel of John tells how Jesus demonstrated this love to His disciples in chapter 21.
The disciples were fishermen by trade. They knew their stuff. After staying out all night, trying to catch some fish, we read that Jesus stood on the shore. We certainly don't know how long He was standing there, but we do know He probably observed some of the frustration that came from not being able to catch fish; not having any success at the very thing they had been trained to do. (Imagine Peter with little to no sleep!) Yet in His love, Jesus waited for them on the shore.
Have you spent a long time trying to do something, maybe even something that normally isn't hard for you, only to end with an overwhelming lack of success, achievement, and fruitfulness? Maybe it's a season of ministry; maybe it's a relationship; maybe it's the everyday 9-to-5. You've spent a figurative full night working hard but have experienced little to no benefit.
The phrase "just as day was breaking" suggests that it was at the very moment when the disciples thought the night was never-ending and their labor was in vain, morning came and brought their Savior to the shore, waiting patiently for them to take notice.
While this act in and of itself was evidence of His love, Jesus did not just wait silently. Rather, He instructed the disciples to respond by faith. He called them to realize the limits of their own efforts that had left them discouraged and exhausted, to follow His instruction, and to experience the overwhelming blessing and satisfaction that comes from obedience.
Where do you see yourself in this story? Have you cast your nets into the sea of life again and again? Are you striving to achieve something so familiar to you and yet so beyond your grasp? Look up at the shore of your own heart to see your Savior. Recognize His patient love that waits for you to seek and obey His specific directions. This is the love that makes the difference. - Ron Zappia
Father, Your love is powerful and patient. Thank You for waiting on the shores of my heart. Allow me to recognize You, listen to You, and know the blessing that comes from obeying Your voice. I'm choosing today to relinquish control and desire to follow You. I love you, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Is there an area in my life where I'm working in my own strength? Am I discouraged by a lack of success?
How can I stop my own efforts and listen to what Jesus desires for me to do? What must I do to obey what He's asking of me?
Source: Our Journey Online
by Oswald Chambers
This is love in the making. The love of God is not created - it is His nature. When we receive the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit, He unites us with God so that His love is demonstrated in us. The goal of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was. And what kind of oneness did Jesus Christ have with the Father? He had such a oneness with the Father that He was obedient when His Father sent Him down here to be poured out for us. And He says to us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).
Peter now realizes that he does love Him, due to the revelation that came with the Lord’s piercing question. The Lord’s next point is— “Pour yourself out. Don’t testify about how much you love Me and don’t talk about the wonderful revelation you have had, just ’Feed My sheep.’ ” Jesus has some extraordinarily peculiar sheep: some that are unkempt and dirty, some that are awkward or pushy, and some that have gone astray! But it is impossible to exhaust God’s love, and it is impossible to exhaust my love if it flows from the Spirit of God within me. The love of God pays no attention to my prejudices caused by my natural individuality. If I love my Lord, I have no business being guided by natural emotions— I have to feed His sheep. We will not be delivered or released from His commission to us. Beware of counterfeiting the love of God by following your own natural human emotions, sympathies, or understandings. That will only serve to revile and abuse the true love of God.
by Oswald Chambers
Peter's response to this piercing question is considerably different from the bold defiance he exhibited only a few days before when he declared, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" (Matthew 26:35 ; also see Matthew 26:33-34). Our natural individuality, or our natural self, boldly speaks out and declares its feelings. But the true love within our inner spiritual self can be discovered only by experiencing the hurt of this question of Jesus Christ.
Peter loved Jesus in the way any natural man loves a good person. Yet that is nothing but emotional love. It may reach deeply into our natural self, but it never penetrates to the spirit of a person. True love never simply declares itself. Jesus said, "Whoever confesses Me before men [that is, confesses his love by everything he does, not merely by his words], him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8).
Unless we are experiencing the hurt of facing every deception about ourselves, we have hindered the work of the Word of God in our lives. The Word of God inflicts hurt on us more than sin ever could, because sin dulls our senses. But this question of the Lord intensifies our sensitivities to the point that this hurt produced by Jesus is the most exquisite pain conceivable. It hurts not only on the natural level, but also on the deeper spiritual level.
"For the Word of God is living and powerful . . . , piercing even to the division of soul and spirit . . ."— to the point that no deception can remain (Hebrews 4:12).
When the Lord asks us this question, it is impossible to think and respond properly, because when the Lord speaks directly to us, the pain is too intense. It causes such a tremendous hurt that any part of our life which may be out of line with His will can feel the pain. There is never any mistaking the pain of the Lord’s Word by His children, but the moment that pain is felt is the very moment at which God reveals His truth to us.
By George M. Gould, M.D. of Ithaca, N.Y.
It has lately been urged, and from a medical standpoint, that everyone could eat any amount of sugar, saccharine foods, candy, and starchy foods, not only without harm to health, but with positive physiologic advantage. In view of the five hundred millions of dollars said to be expended annually in sugar by the United States, and in view of the little known---probably more suspected---as to the evils and causes of the prevalence of diabetes, such nonsense should need no argument to make its fallacy evident.
Almost every second store and shop in our villages and cities is a candy store, and common sense and common observation knows well enough the morbid results. Out of the American debauch in candy and sweets, breakfast-foods and sugar, wheat-cakes and molasses, we shall later have to win our way to health and good dietetic sense with painful experience.
The exacting questions, of course, remain: As to long-continued morbid habits of diet, especially in the case of children and city-dwellers; with the sedentary, in those with weakened nervous and nutritional systems, when coexisting with other diseases, or in the cases of other active and co-operating causes of disease.
For several years it has been growing clearer to me that many patients do not get well because they live too exclusively on sugary and starchy foods. With greater activity and the resisting power of youth, children exhibit the morbid tendency by excessive "nervousness." denutrition, ease-of-becoming ill, and by many ague and warning symptoms. I have asked the parents of such children to stop them in their use of all sweets, and most starches and almost immediately there was a most gratifying disappearance of the "nervousness," fickleness of appetite, "colds," and vague manifold ailments.
In another class of patients it was this way: There was only an incomplete disappearance of those symptoms generally due to eyestrain or back strain. With the correction of eyestrain, for instance, there was a sudden disappearance of the chief complaints, but followed by a provoking return of some of them. There was only, say, a three-fourth of non-cure remaining to torment. In such cases I exact a promise that for one or two months sugar and sweets shall be absolutely discontinued, and of the starches, the least possible use (no potatoes, surely)---a little toasted brown bread only, for instance.
How many patients have blessed me for the suggestion, and have traced to the continued rules, their reinstated health and enjoyment of life. Those who have learned to recognize the value of such hygienic preventions of disease will test the suggestion; those who observe only the organic end-products in aberrant physiology and morbid function. Fashionable pathology concerns itself only with terminal disease, apparently oblivious of pathogenesis, and most of all, careless of the early and slight origins which led to mortem and post-mortem. It is left to chance and to faddism to make scientific the infinitely more important function of prevention.
But the evil effects of sugar-drowning will sometimes be recognized as still more important and varied than I have said. Among others, I have had two cases in which it was clear that a too exclusive or an exaggerated diet of sugary foods was a cause of epilepsy. The first was that of a boy of nine years of age in which correction of eyestrain brought no relief of both petit and grand mal attacks. Then by diligent inquiry I learned that the boy (who was morbidly nervous...almost insanely active) ate no meats, eggs, vegetables, etc., and lived, practically, on "cakes," a little breakfast food, etc., with enormous quantities of sugar, syrups, etc. Recovery followed a diet list which excluded the sweets.
Another patient, aged fifty-five, has been having many petit mal attacks for thirteen years, with occasional, typical grand mal seizures. He was a watchmaker, and wearing no correction of his compound hyperopic astiginatism. I found that he ate sweets inordinately, which, upon being interdicted, the attacks immediately grew less in number and severity, with no major ones, and the rare minor ones scarcely noticeable, until they disappeared and there was a return of hope, a zest in life; as he enthusiastically says, he "Feels like a new man now." In consideration of his age, the results are noteworthy.
Note: These cookies can be frozen. They make a great mid-morning snack!
One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Ah the beauty of Gods creation is beyond description.
As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the Lord's presence with me. He asked me, "Do you love me?"¯
I answered, "Of course, God! You are my Lord and Savior!¯"
Then He asked, "If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?"
I was perplexed. I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn't be able to do, the things that I took for granted. And I answered, "It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You."
Then the Lord said, "If you were blind, would you still love my creation?"
How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still loved God and His creation. So I answered, "Its hard to think of it, but I would still love you.¯"
The Lord then asked me, "If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?¯"
How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to Gods Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts. I answered, "It would be tough, but I would still listen to Your word.¯"
The Lord then asked, "If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?"
How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks. So I answered, "Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name."
And the Lord asked, "Do you really love Me?"¯
With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, "Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!"¯
I thought I had answered well, but God asked, "THEN WHY DO YOU SIN?"¯
I answered, "Because I am only human. I am not perfect.¯"
"THEN, WHY IN TIMES OF PEACE DO YOU STRAY THE FURTHEST? WHY ONLY IN TIMES OF TROUBLE DO YOU PRAY THE EARNEST?"¯
No answers. Only tears.
The Lord continued: "Why only sing at fellowships and retreats? Why seek Me only in times of worship? Why ask things so selfishly? Why ask things so unfaithfully?"¯
The tears continued to roll down my cheeks.
"Why are you ashamed of Me? Why are you not spreading the good news? Why in times of persecution, you cry to others when I offer My shoulder to cry on? Why make excuses when I give you opportunities to serve in My Name?¯"
I tried to answer, but there was no answer to give.
"You are blessed with life. I made you not to throw this gift away. I have blessed you with talents to serve Me, but you continue to turn away. I have revealed My Word to you, but you do not gain in knowledge. I have spoken to you but your ears were closed. I have shown My blessings to you, but your eyes were turned away. I have sent you servants, but you sat idly by as they were pushed away. I have heard your prayers and I have answered them all.¯ DO YOU TRULY LOVE ME?"¯
I could not answer. How could I? I was embarrassed beyond belief. I had no excuse. What could I say to this?
When the tears had flowed, I said, "Please forgive me Lord. I am unworthy to be Your child."¯
The Lord answered, "That is My Grace, My child."
I asked, "Then why do you continue to forgive me? Why do You love me so?"
The Lord answered, "Because you are My creation. You are my child. I will never abandon you. When you cry, I will have compassion and cry with you. When you shout with joy, I will laugh with you. When you are down, I will encourage you. When you fall, I will raise you up. When you are tired, I will carry you. I will be with you till the end of days, and I will love you forever."¯
Never had I cried so hard before. How could I have been so cold? How could I have hurt God as I had done?
I asked God, "How much do You love me?"¯
The Lord stretched out His arms, and I saw His nail-pierced hands. I bowed down at the feet of Christ, my Savior. And for the first time, I truly prayed.
Source: George Vergese, Chennai
by Father Robert Barron
I saw an advance copy of a survey by William J. Byron and Charles Zech, which will appear in the April 30th edition of "America" magazine.
It was conducted at the request of David O'Connell, the bishop of Trenton, and its focus was very simple: it endeavored to discover why Catholics have left the church. No one denies that a rather substantive number of Catholics have taken their leave during the past 20 years, and Byron and Zech wanted to find out why. They did so in the most direct way possible and asked those who had quit.
The answers they got were, in many ways, predictable. Lots of people cited the church's teachings on divorce and re-marriage, gay marriage, contraception, and the ordination of women. These matters, of course, have been exhaustively discussed in the years following Vatican II, and I'd be willing to bet that anyone, even those vaguely connected to the Church, could rehearse the arguments on both sides of those issues. But there just isn't a lot that the church can do about them. No bishop or pastor could make a policy adjustment and announce that divorced and re-married people can receive communion or that a gay couple can come to the altar to be married or a woman present herself for ordination.
What struck me about the survey, however, was that many of the issues that led people to leave the church are indeed matters that can be addressed. Many of the respondents commented that they left because of "bad customer relations." One woman said that she felt "undervalued by the church" and found "no mentors." Many more said that their pastors were "arrogant, distant, aloof, and insensitive," and still others said that their experiences over the phone with parish staffers were distinctly negative. Now I fully understand that parish priests and lay ministers are on the front lines and hence are the ones who often have to say "no" when a parishioner asks for something that just can't be granted. Sometimes the recipient of that "no" can all too facilely accuse the one who says it as arrogant or indifferent. Nevertheless, the survey can and should be a wake-up call to church leaders—both clerical and non-clerical—that simple kindness, compassion, and attention go a rather long way. I distinctly remember the advice that my first pastor—a wonderful and pastorally skillful priest—gave to the parish secretary: "for many people, you are the first contact they have with the Catholic Church; you exercise, therefore, an indispensable ministry." One respondent to the survey observed that whenever he asked a priest about a controversial issue, he "got rules, and not an invitation to sit down and talk." Unfair? Perhaps. But every priest, even when ultimately he has to say "no," can do so in the context of a relationship predicated upon love and respect.
A second major concern that can and should be addressed is that of bad preaching. Again and again, people said that they left the church because homilies were "boring, irrelevant, poorly prepared," or "delivered in an impenetrable accent." Again, speaking as someone who is called upon to give sermons all the time, I realize how terribly difficult it is to preach, how it involves skill in public speaking, attention to the culture, expertise in biblical interpretation, and sensitivity to the needs and interests of an incredibly diverse audience. That said, homilists can make a great leap forward by being attentive to one fact: sermons become boring in the measure that they don't propose something like answers to real questions. All of the biblical exegesis and oratorical skill in the world will be met with a massive "so what?" if the preacher has not endeavored to correlate the "answers" he provides with the "questions" that beguile the hearts of the people to whom he speaks. Practically every Gospel involves an encounter between Jesus and a person—Peter, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, etc.—who is questioning, wondering, suffering, or seeking. An interesting homily identifies that longing and demonstrates, concretely, how Jesus fulfills it. When the homily both reminds people how thirsty they are and provides water to quench the thirst, people will listen.
A third eminently correctable problem is one that I will admit I had never thought about before reading this survey. Many of the respondents commented that, after they left the church, no one from the parish contacted them or reached out to them in any way. Now again, I can anticipate and fully understand the objections from pastoral people: many Catholic parishes are huge—upwards of three or four thousand families—and staffs are small. Yet, just as major corporations, serving millions of people, attend carefully to lost customers, so Catholic parishes should prioritize an outreach to those who have drifted (or stormed) away. A phone call, a note, an e-mail, a pastoral visit—anything that would say, "We've noticed you're not coming to Mass anymore. Can we help? Can you tell us what, if anything, we've done wrong? We'd love to see you back with us."
The problem of Catholics leaving the church is, obviously, serious and complex, and anyone who would suggest an easy solution is naļve. However, having listened to a representative sample of those who have left, parishes, priests, and church administrators might take some relatively simple and direct steps that would go a long way toward ameliorating the situation.
About the Author:
Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. He is the creator and host of a new 10 episode documentary series called "Catholicism."
Selected Comments from Readers:
I can personally attest to this. When I left two different parishes, not one of them ever contacted me. In fact, I ran into the pastor from one of those parishes who struck up a conversation about the parish but never asked why I had left, nor did he invite me to return.
The pastor at my current parish, has called and personally visited all the previous parishioners. Many of them have returned. It does make a difference.
Our last priest was an unmitigated disaster, he would forget to mention the Mass intentions and people would come into the office crying because it was a special day for them. He would say something like "Well, it was in the bulletin." and we would be left trying to salve hurt feelings. I could go on but I'd rather not relive the nightmare.
Our new priest is totally different, he is at the parish hall all day unless he is called away. He even helped us clean beans this morning! He will go to the hospital or take a confession or just meet and talk with anyone who presents themselves and asks for a meeting.
We have a man in town who is dying of cancer that we all know and our priest didn't even know that he was a fallen away Catholic but he asked if he could go visit him. As it turns out the man called the other priest in town and asked for Last Rites but our priest was ready and willing just to go visit a person that he really knew nothing about including his religion, he just wanted us to ask for permission.
Ben Kingsley starred as the main character in the motion picture Gandhi. He
spent months preparing for the role, visiting the various Indian locales Gandhi
had frequented. He even learned to spin cotton thread on a wooden wheel while
holding conversations as Gandhi did. The physical resemblance between Gandhi and
Kingsley was almost startling. After filming a scene in a village south of
Delhi, Kingsley stepped out of a car, and an elderly peasant knelt to touch his
feet. Embarrassed, Kingsley explained that he was merely an actor playing
Gandhi. "We know," replied the villager, "but through you he will surely live
Let me ask you, "Does the Son of God live again through us? You see, that's also part of Jesus' prayer for us -- that the world will see Christ in us, through our unity and through our love.
Source: Preaching Magazine
Humor: The Gospel Has Been Proclaimed
A first year student in a Catholic seminary was told by the dean that he should
plan to preach the sermon in chapel the following day. He had never preached a
sermon before, he was nervous and afraid, and he stayed up all night, but in the
morning, he didn't have a sermon. He stood in the pulpit, looked out at his
classmates and said "Do you know what I am going to say?" All of them shook
their heads "no" and he said "Neither do I. The service has ended. Go in peace."
The dean was not happy. "I'll give you another chance tomorrow, and you had better have a sermon." Again he stayed up all night; and again he couldn't come up with a sermon. Next morning, he stood in the pulpit and asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" The students all nodded their heads "yes." "Then there is no reason to tell you" he said. "The service has ended. Go in peace."
Now the dean was angry. "I'll give you one more chance; if you don't have a sermon tomorrow, you will be asked to leave the seminary." Again, no sermon came. He stood in the pulpit the next day and asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" Half of the students nodded "yes" and the other half shook their heads "no." The student preacher then announced "Those who know, tell those who don't know. The service has ended. Go in peace."
The seminary dean walked over to the student, put his arm over the student's shoulders, and said "Those who know, tell those who don't know. Today, the gospel has been proclaimed."
Source: Steven Molin
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