Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Discipleship

Volume 4 No. 220 May 24, 2014

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Jerusalem-Sunset
Sunset in Jerusalem
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (May 25)

2. Sermons for This Sunday (May 25)

Sermons for the Fourth Sunday After the New Sunday

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_4th-sunday-after-new-sunday.htm

3. Inspiration for Today: Ignatius - An Ordinary Man With An Open Mind And An Open Heart

Ignatius was an ordinary man who allowed himself to be an instrument for Christ. However, his choice came with its share of challenges. ..

4. Featured: Five Practical Lessons for Discipleship

St. Luke uses nearly 10 chapters (9:51-19:27) to record the journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus prepares his disciples for the work to which he has called them. These lessons for discipleship offer each of us practical help for living the faith day in and day out. St. Luke packs important principles of discipleship in the opening eleven verses of the narrative. ...

5. Understanding Discipleship

Jesus calls, "Come and follow me..." to the crowds that attended his caravan into Jerusalem, and to you and to me in the crowds that fill the churches of our time. Understanding discipleship is to hear the call, count the cost and make the commitment. He needs disciples today, this very hour. Next week will be too late for some. Next year is as never for many. ..

6. Midsummer Wisdom

Instead of anger, Jesus gives us three sweet, short wisdom sayings, sayings for hard times, sayings that reflect his sorrow that the sweet and full times are over and time itself is growing short. Sorrow, that what lies ahead will be difficult, and he must set his face into the cold wind of it.

Each saying has midsummer in it, the sweet fulfillment, and also some of the chill of hard times to come. Each is given to someone who encounters him on the road. Each is a rebuff of sorts. And an encouragement. ..

7. A Reflection on Luke 9:51-62

God certainly desires our devotion, love, and thanks. But, when we trade those in for a crusade…we can all too often end up looking like James and John. ...

8. A Prayer - Shape Us To Follow You, Lord

9. Family Special: Family Against Family - Cost of Discipleship

One of the most jarring things Jesus ever said, at least in my opinion, is when He's speaking in St. Luke's gospel about the effects His ministry will have on families. He tells us, "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:53).

At first blush this seems to go against everything we know about the Gospel. Doesn't Jesus preach about love and peace and caring for one another? Aren't we taught to give more than we're asked for and to forgive seventy-times-seven? Isn't love and forgiveness what Christ is all about? ...

10. Health: Probiotics May Reduce Gastrointestinal Problems in Infants

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (sometimes referred to as "friendly germs") that help to maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid in digestion. They also help keep potentially harmful organisms in the gut (harmful bacteria and yeasts) under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Probiotics can be consumed as capsules, tablets, beverages, powders, yogurts, and other foods. ...

11. Recipe: Apple Rings

As much as you would prefer apple as a fruit and as a juice, you would love a simple, quick and easy recipe made from apple that is a dessert. Apple rings is a dessert that not only looks good but takes yummy as it crispy and scrumptious. Here is how to make Apple Rings. ...

12, About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (May 25)

Sermons for This Sunday (May 25)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Ignatius - An Ordinary Man With An Open Mind And An Open Heart
Ignatius was an ordinary man who allowed himself to be an instrument for Christ. However, his choice came with its share of challenges.

He became a vessel for Christ and he accomplished many extraordinary things in Jesus' name. His secret lay in his complete trust in what God wanted him to do. It also helped that he continually immersed himself in prayer. As he communed with God, it gave affirmation for the good works he was tasked to do.

Today, may we be inspired by the example of Ignatius. He was a man of prayer. Because of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius helped many others to discover what God wants them to do.

It just takes an open mind and an open heart. When we connect to God, the plans are revealed to us. We many never know when God may call us to do amazing things as well.

Source: Food For Thought

Featured: Five Practical Lessons for Discipleship

By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

"When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him" (Luke 9:51-52).

This begins the section of Luke's Gospel known as the "Travel Narrative". In this section, Jesus and his disciples journey to Jerusalem where redemption will occur and the Church will be born. St. Luke uses nearly 10 chapters (9:51-19:27) to record the journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus prepares his disciples for the work to which he has called them. These lessons for discipleship offer each of us practical help for living the faith day in and day out. St. Luke packs important principles of discipleship in the opening eleven verses of the narrative.

1. Be resolute and intentional in your commitment to Jesus.

How many times do we experience what we might call false starts? Maybe it seems you have even spent a life-time of making false starts. We mean well. We mean to do what we say. But, somehow we always find ourselves needing to start over. Has this ever happened to you? It sure has to me.

So what is wrong?

First, let's be sure we distinguish between the faults we are certain to commit and a more serious failure to even begin. We will fail at times. There will be bumps and falls along the way. The grace of the sacraments, the practice of the virtues and a commitment to prayer will help us persevere.

But, be sure that you have truly begun. Have you surrendered intentionally and completely to Christ? Jesus began his journey to Jerusalem with deliberate resolution… he "turned" towards Jerusalem. Jesus had no need for conversion, but we do. While conversion is a life-long endeavor, we must begin. We need to deliberately and resolutely "turn" from our prior life and take up the new life in Christ.

2. In all things be charitable, especially in zealotry.

"On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, 'Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?' Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village" (Luke 9:52-55).

Not everyone will approve of and be accepting of your commitment to Jesus. Some will ridicule you, some will politely ignore you and some will resent you. How is the disciple to respond? The Apostles James and John asked to strike down the Samaritans with fire from Heaven! Have you ever felt that way? Okay, maybe not that extreme, but it is not unusual for a parent's disappointment with their children's or sibling's decisions about the faith to become so personal that the relationship is strained to the breaking point. We must admit that there are times when Christians, maybe even ourselves, have actually struck out in hatred and vengeance against those who have rejected the faith.

Jesus teaches that we are to be patient with those who do not share in our beliefs or the depths of our passion. Pray for them, be an example for them, but let go and move on to others who God may be placing in our lives. Our only enemy is the devil and his minions. Christ died for everyone else and we are to love them as he loves them.

3. Disciples must be willing to lose everything for the Lord.

"As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus answered him, 'Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head'" (Like 9:57-58).

Our resolute decision to surrender to Jesus must recognize that there may be a material cost. Are we prepared to accept this? We must live our faith throughout all aspects of our lives, including our careers. Are we prepared to risk our livelihood to avoid sin? Are we prepared to suffer discrimination in the work- and market-place because of our beliefs?

We may even be shunned by family and friends.

For our spiritual lives to progress, we must be willing to lose everything for the Lord.

4. The demand of discipleship outweighs all other priorities.

"And to another he said, 'Follow me.' But he replied, '(Lord,) let me go first and bury my father.' But he answered him, 'Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:59-60).

By this example, Jesus drives home the supreme importance of discipleship. Nothing in this life is more important. This is not to say that we neglect the responsibilities of our particular state in life. But, anything that obstructs our commitment to Christ must be shunned.

5. Discipleship requires that we let go of the past and live in the present according to the Will of God.

"And another said, 'I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.' (To him) Jesus said, 'No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:59-62).

How many times have you found the concerns of the world holding you back from life of faith? Putting off prayer until you are not so busy… neglecting the spiritual education and formation of your children because everyone is just so busy… ignoring your desire to help those in need until you have more time and money… these are easy habits to fall into and reflect a holding onto the old way of life before Christ. When we commit to Christ, we need to give him our best efforts and our prime time, not just what is left over after a hard day's work.

The key is not to ignore life's demands, but simply to integrate them into your life of faith. That is why Jesus teaches that we are to seek the Kingdom first and then all else will be provided (cf. Luke 12:31).

Source: Into the deep

About The Author:

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center's Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

Understanding Discipleship

by John Jewell

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

There is an old Peanuts comic strip where Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she would make a good evangelist. "And why do you think that?" Charlie Brown asks. "Well," says Lucy, "I convinced the boy who sits behind me in school that my religion is better than his religion." Charlie Brown wants to know, "How did you do that?" To which Lucy replies, "I hit him over the head with my lunch box!"

Her approach is not unlike the approach of James and John in our gospel lesson today. It is a good things these two followers of Jesus did not have access to flame throwers or napalm.

Jesus was preparing to make his last journey to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, tried, and crucified. He sent messengers ahead of his into a Samaritan village to make preparations for a short stay on his journey. The people of the village wanted nothing to do with Jesus, however. One reason was simply that Jews were not hospitable to Samaritans and this was simply response in kind. A more compelling reason for the Samaritans was that they wanted nothing to do with Jesus because he was going to the Jewish holy city which they did not recognize as a legitimate center of worship.

James and John react angrily. "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" they exclaim. They were from the "hit you over the head with a lunch box" school of evangelism. If they smoked a Samaritan village because they would not receive Christ -- well you can be sure that their appearance anywhere in Samaria would have resulted in lots of people "receiving" Christ -- don't you think?

Jesus saw this spirit within them from early on. At the very beginning, when Jesus called people to follow him, the gospel of Mark says Jesus gave James and John the name "Sons of Thunder." [Mark 3:17] They may have had in mind the unfortunate fate of King Ahaziah's commander and squad of men who went to arrest Elijah and take him back to the King. The ungodliness of Ahaziah and his men was such that heavenly fire fell and consumed the squad! [2 Kings 1:12]

Lunch box evangelism you might call it!

And it worked. Unmoved by the misfortune of his men, Ahaziah sent another contingent of fifty. This time the captain of the group fell on his knees before Elijah told him that he knew of the fate of his predecessor and begged for his life and the life of his men.

This "overpower them" method of evangelism calls to mind the very rapid growth of the church in the years following Constantine's conversion. Think about it. "The Emperor and his Generals would like it very much if you would convert to Christianity," the message spread. And lots of people were anxious to have the Emperor and his Generals happy.

Lunch box evangelism produces converts, but it is highly ineffective in producing Christians -- that is authentic followers of Jesus Christ.

***

Yet, Jesus did commission his followers to go and make disciples (that is students or learners) of all nations. Jews, Samaritans, gentiles and all who would become his followers. And those followers were to be taught what it means to know Christ and follow his teachings. Remember the words?

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
[Matthew 28:18-20]

No Emperor can mandate conversion to Christianity in our culture today. In fact talk of teaching people to obey Christ sounds a bit foreign to modern ears. It calls to mind a generation that lived at least a hundred years ago. When my oldest son was about six years old, he asked, "Dad, is it true that people had to go to church in the olden days?"

Our generation of "church folk" have not been raised on a very strong diet of discipleship. Attendance at worship and engagement with the great theological issues of the faith have become electives instead of required content in the curriculum of Christian living.

This is not entirely a new thing at all. Jesus discovered that at the opposite extreme from James and John there was another approach to discipleship. This was discipleship based on the desires of the disciple rather than on the dictates of the Master.

***

As Jesus is on the move toward Jerusalem, crowds attend they way. His ministry has drawn attention from religious officials and from the ordinary people who came to him in droves for hope and healing. Now as the outlines of his final confrontation with the priest, scribes and Pharisees begin to emerge from the background, a sense of urgency slowly begins to build.

Whether caught up in the excitement of the moment or motivated by deep seated convictions, we do not know, but three individuals encounter Jesus. Two say they want to follow Jesus and another is called. All three are strongly cautioned that following him - discipleship - is a costly thing.

Jesus might not be invited to be on very many evangelism or membership committees in our churches today. He sets the bar so high that not many would join. In the gospel of Mark, he turned a wealthy your man away. The man was a leader in town, in the synagogue and could probably have bankrolled the entire movement of Jesus and his followers. [Mark 10:17-22]

The first prospective disciple offers to follow Jesus absolutely and the second two say in effect, "I will follow you but..." Jesus' responses indicate that the first prospect was not sufficiently aware of what he was promising to do. The second two were trying to make discipleship secondary to other issues in their lives. The two dynamics here are:
[1] Count the cost, and
[2] Make the commitment.

[1] Count the cost

"I will follow you," the first person says, "...wherever you go."

Someone is moved by what they see in Jesus and his disciples. "I'm with you!" They affirm ... "I will go with you wherever you go!" But Jesus pushes their commitment level. There will be times he has no place to go and eventually he will go to Jerusalem, to Calvary and to death.

Peter once said to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." [Mark 10:28] Following Christ can be a risky thing. Jesus warned his disciples that they could encounter great hostility if they truly followed him. "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you." [John 15:18]

To understand discipleship is to understand that there is a cost to discipleship. When we say, "I will follow you wherever you go," - as we do in confirmation or in other forms of commitment to Christ - we may be somewhat like that person in the crowd who was excited to follow Jesus, but had not thought through the cost.

Discipleship means a renunciation of everything that is contrary to the will and the ways of Christ and an embracing of his message and ministry. You might ask yourself the question, "What is my Christian faith costing me?" If the answer is, "Nothing," then we may be sure that whatever else we may be practicing - it is not discipleship in any New Testament sense.

[2] Make the commitment

The next two prospects for discipleship point to the commitment Jesus calls for. A commitment to follow Christ is made in light of a tremendous urgency. Here Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where he will shortly be executed. There is no time for those lengthy farewell parties with family and friends or even time to go through the lengthy funeral rites of the day.

The words may sound harsh, "Let the dead bury the dead," but the mission of Christ is a matter of life and death. Not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual realm, there is no life without the life God gives to us in Christ.

Combined with the issue of counting the cost of being a follower of Christ the sense of urgency has strong implications for our own time. Most of us operate as though we had all the time in the world to attend to the important issues of our lives. "When I have been able to get ahead at work, I will spend time with my family." "When I get some time in my schedule, I plan to become involved in my community." "When things settle down, I want to give some time to my church."

There is no less urgency in following Christ today than there was in Jesus' day. The world is broken and can't fix itself. Hatred of one group of people for another is an urgent issue for the victims of ethnic cleansing. Malnutrition does not wait as it advances on the multitudes of children whose lives are wasting away in hunger. The empty values of the world around us have created a vacuum in the lives of many people we know.

Jesus calls, "Come and follow me..." to the crowds that attended his caravan into Jerusalem, and to you and to me in the crowds that fill the churches of our time. Understanding discipleship is to hear the call, count the cost and make the commitment. He needs disciples today, this very hour. Next week will be too late for some. Next year is as never for many.

Those of you who served in the armed forces know what it means when the drill sergeant calls out, "Fall in!" That means it is time to drop everything immediately, assemble and come to attention. That's what Jesus did when he set out for Jerusalem and the crowds were watching as though spectators. Jesus called out, "Fall in!"

Midsummer Wisdom

by Nancy Rockwell, The Bite in the Apple

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

Midsummer. The longest day comes, bearing sweet fulfillment everywhere, and also sadness that the fullness of time is ending, that days will grow less, the sun will pull away and the dark will draw nigh.

And for Jesus, too, the longest day has come, the bittersweet day when he sets his face toward Jerusalem. The reaping of joys is past now, and the road winds down into a gathering dark ahead of him.

It is a hinge time, as are the days on which the earth turns, the equinoxes of time.

Luke tells us Jesus meets immediate resistance, first from the Samaritans, despisers of Jerusalem and the temple culture, who had been cheering Jesus on. Now that he will go there, they turn away. And then his own friends ask about the uses of rage as a reply. He silences them. He will walk on to much more outrageous responses than this slight snub. And he will halt their anger then, too

Instead of anger, Jesus gives us three sweet, short wisdom sayings, sayings for hard times, sayings that reflect his sorrow that the sweet and full times are over and time itself is growing short. Sorrow, that what lies ahead will be difficult, and he must set his face into the cold wind of it.

Each saying has midsummer in it, the sweet fulfillment, and also some of the chill of hard times to come. Each is given to someone who encounters him on the road. Each is a rebuff of sorts. And an encouragement.

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

No sayings of Jesus roll more easily off the tongues of Christians than these.

Foxes and birds work at a feverish pace, against terrible odds, to sustain a merely temporary shelter for a brief season. They do this in order that the hope of life may continue in their young, as they wear themselves out in their fight for survival And Jesus says that is more shelter than he has.

The burden of death and of the dying can be a distraction from the hard work of hope by which the kingdom is built. Do not, he warns, turn aside for distractions of memory, when hope's vision lies in another direction.

And the hard, hard work of the plow is the only way to the fruitfulness of the field. Poor men, for whom the field's fruitfulness means the difference between life and starvation, will tie themselves to the plow, pushing furrows through the soil by sheer will and strength born of far more than muscle.

This is not the usually palliative advice given for facing hardship: whistle a happy tune; think positive thoughts; practice being up.

Jesus offers what he himself needs: a mix of recognitions, that our work will be hard, and that the kingdom comes from this work; that we can do it, if we keep our hand on the plow.

For a decade now it has been the fashion to front load Christian worship with praise and thanksgiving, the happy tunes of Christian faith. Before that it was the custom to open services with a hymn of praise and move swiftly into breast-beating confessions.

Perhaps we would be better served, and serve better, if we followed Jesus' wisdom in how to prepare. Perhaps we could open our services, the hinges of weeks, and the day that offer us the chance to renew our vision, with a clear acknowledgement that faithful work is hard and our weariness long, the shelter can be hard to find in a harsh world, and that we are tempted to live among memories of the past rather than move into the untamed future.

Keep Your Hand on the Plow, the slave song that held the Civil Rights Movement to its task of confronting the hard-hearted Jerusalem this nation was, might be the kind of opener we need. For people do come to church wary as foxes, determined as mother birds, overwhelmed by works and grief, and weary as field hands. And we do need encouragement to keep on moving, despite our fears, into an expression of the grace we need, preparing ourselves to hear preaching about the difficult road to kingdom.

Julia Esquivel, Guatemalan poet, prays this way:

Jesus said,
"You ought always to pray and not to faint."
So we do not pray for easy lives;
we pray to be stronger women and men.
And we do not pray for tasks equal to our powers,
but for power equal to our tasks.
Then, the doing of our work will be no miracle
– we will be the miracle.
Every day may we wonder at ourselves
and the richness of life
which has come to us by the grace of God. Amen.

A Reflection on Luke 9:51-62

by Rick

The following is a reflection on Luke 9:51-62.

James and John, the Sons of Zebedee, to Jesus, about the Samaritans:

Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?

I mean…really?

"Jesus, do you want us to burn people alive on your behalf?"

Is that even close to Jesus' M.O.? Jesus, the Prince of Peace…the forgiveness and love-your-neighbor guy?

This is like one of those moments when your crazy uncle says something so ridiculously inappropriate that everyone just turns and stares with their mouth agape for a moment. [click to tweet this]

The one thing about this passage that makes me giggle though, is thinking about Jesus' facial expression. I wonder if, like a teacher, he kept it together when his students acted out, only to turn away, roll his eyes, and face palm when they weren't looking.

I will have to say, there is something a little cute about it though. They were trying to stick up for Jesus. The Samaritans had rejected him, and they were telling Jesus, however inappropriately, that they had his back.

It reminds me of a time not so long ago that our church grounds committee had painted the word "reserved" on the parking spaces in front of our home. Then a few days later the longest serving member of the parish pulled up in one of those spots to run into the church office for a moment. My youngest daughter, then about four years old, ran outside and yelled "You can't park there! It's reserved!"

Cute, but…a little over the top.

There was also a time when I was a seminarian, and I went on a jihad because women were wearing so much lipstick that it was coming off in chunks on the Communion Chalice. I wanted to make announcements, write letters for the newsletter, shame people in public…you get the point. My (wonderful) rector very politely heard me out, and then asked my, "What do you feel like you need to defend, and why do you feel like you need to do the defending?"

And, in the case of Jesus, He can take care of himself. That is one of the things that modern Christians forget all the time. We talk about God as if He's omnipotent and omnipresent, but then we act like He's a weakling who can't defend Himself. [click to tweet]

Like God just isn't up for the "War on Christmas."

He needs some help. From cable-TV-personalities.

No.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit can take care of Himself. God doesn't need us defending Him. He's got it. And, if there's fire and brimstone to be had, then God is more than capable of making that happen.

God certainly desires our devotion, love, and thanks. But, when we trade those in for a crusade…we can all too often end up looking like James and John.

Fools.

A Prayer - Shape Us To Follow You, Lord

by John Jewell

The words of scripture hit hard today Lord. It is so very clear that we can not possibly be the followers Jesus calls us to be apart from the intervention of your Holy Spirit in our lives.

Self is so strong in us. Denying ourselves in this world doesn't work very well when it comes to being successful. We are no more anxious to take up a cross than we would be to take up an electric chair or a lethal injection. The call of Jesus to follow him -- even if it means we must follow all the way to death is just so out of sync with the values and goals of this culture.

And yet, there are times when we have a sense that something is missing in our lives and our spiritual fuel gage hovers near empty. Our spirits hunger for substance and we sometimes come close to recognizing our vulnerability to cheap imitations of our faith.

O save us Lord, from all that diminishes the call of Christ or lessens the claim of Christ in our lives. Help us to lift our eyes from the passing glamour of this world and gain a vision of the kingdom that will endure forever. Give us grace to grow up tall in Christ and courage to grow through the trials that will certainly come our way.

Shape us and form us by the loving power of your Holy Spirit, so that one hundred years from this day, we shall have gained the prize that lies beyond the pain... the honor that lies beyond the humility and the crown that lies beyond the cross!

Amen

Family Special: Family Against Family - Cost of Discipleship

by tiberjudy

One of the most jarring things Jesus ever said, at least in my opinion, is when He's speaking in St. Luke's gospel about the effects His ministry will have on families. He tells us, "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:53).

At first blush this seems to go against everything we know about the Gospel. Doesn't Jesus preach about love and peace and caring for one another? Aren't we taught to give more than we're asked for and to forgive seventy-times-seven? Isn't love and forgiveness what Christ is all about?

Well, yes and no. Obviously it is God's great love for us that sent His Son to live as one of us and to give Himself up for us as the perfect sacrifice. Living in Christ means living in His love and allowing His love to transform us. In that love we find forgiveness and mercy - and are called to be His hands and feet as we love and serve the people of God.

Certainly God's plan for our lives is a love story. And in human terms, that unfolding love story first begins within the context of our families. This is where we first know love and experience the care and peace that only the intimacy of family life can provide. Jesus chose to enter humanity in a family and was loved and nurtured by Our Lady and St. Joseph in the home they made for Him. So how can all we know about Christ and the Gospel make sense of this passage written for us by St. Luke?

One thing we learn is that there is an order, a hierarchy, of love. Our love of God must come first in all things, even in families. If we allow anything or anyone to come before Him, our lives are disordered. Jesus is illustrating the utterly transformative effect that following Him will have on our lives. He comes first in all things: before our jobs, before our friends, even before our families. Our commitment to Jesus MUST transform every area and aspect and moment of our lives.

Being a Christian changes how we choose to make a living, whom we marry (and IF we marry), how we conduct ourselves in business, how we raise our children, how we spend our money, and how we contribute to the community in which we live. If we claim Him as savior, then He must be first in our lives. This is what Jesus means in St. Luke's gospel. Jesus claims us entirely for His Sacred Heart.

That claim can and must radically change us. St. Paul calls us "new creations" (II Corinthians 5:17). That newness of life in Christ sets us apart from the world. We are in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:2). We don't live like other people. We work and play differently. We have different goals and achieve them in different ways. If we're just like everyone else, then we're not doing it right.

When Christ comes first in all things, it means everything else is ordered AFTER Him. And that can and does cause problems in some families. We know these problems well. We may have experienced them in our own families: choices made which conflict with faith, marriages unravelled by sin, children ravaged by divorce, and lives wounded through walking a path away from God. Love is a messy journey and we're all struggling at it. We're trying to find the way God wants us to be His beloved child. A trusted prayer in times like these is,"Lord, help me to be like Jesus." Help me to love as Jesus loves, to forgive as Jesus forgives, to be humble and merciful as He is humility and mercy. I fail at this every day. A hundred times a day.

St. Paul tells us how to love like Jesus. You know this scripture. "Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged" (I Corinthians 13:4-7). These verses are about true love, sacrificial love: love that costs you something. The kind of love that families share, the kind of love that can see them through the most difficult of times. At the center of that kind of love is the humility of Jesus. Humility that gives without counting the cost, expecting no repayment. How much division in our families and our churches is a result of pride? Of keeping score and wanting to be right? Of putting our own wants and needs first? Probably most of it.

Keeping Christ first puts everything and everyone else into their proper places. Especially in our families.

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
- Pope John Paul II

Health Tip: Probiotics May Reduce Gastrointestinal Problems in Infants
Prophylactically using probiotics in infants may reduce the development of gastrointestinal conditions, according to a recent study.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (sometimes referred to as "friendly germs") that help to maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid in digestion. They also help keep potentially harmful organisms in the gut (harmful bacteria and yeasts) under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Probiotics can be consumed as capsules, tablets, beverages, powders, yogurts, and other foods.

In a recent study, researchers conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the effects of Lactobacillus reuteri supplementation during the first 3 months of infant life on the onset of colic, acid reflux and constipation. A total of 589 infants less than one week old were randomly assigned to receive L reuteri or placebo for 90 days. Data on the development of gastrointestinal problems was recorded by the parents. The main outcome measures evaluated included constipation, reduction in crying time and regurgitation.

The researchers found that by the age of 3 months-old, the infants receiving Lactobacillus reuteri vomited and cried significantly less and had significantly fewer bowel movements daily. The authors also noted that probiotic supplementation resulted in both the parents and community spending less money on the infant.

The authors concluded that prophylactic use of probiotics during the first 3 months of life may reduce the development of gastrointestinal problems and reduce costs associated with these conditions. Additional well-designed clinical trials are needed.

References

1. Indrio F, Di Mauro A, Riezzo G, et al. Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jan 13. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4367

2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

Recipe: Apple Rings

As much as you would prefer apple as a fruit and as a juice, you would love a simple, quick and easy recipe made from apple that is a dessert. Apple rings is a dessert that not only looks good but takes yummy as it crispy and scrumptious. Here is how to make Apple Rings:

Ingredients

1 large Egg white
1 cup all-purpose Flour
6 large Apples (peeled)
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 cup Water
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Cinnamon
Sugar
Canola oil for frying

For the icing:

4 tablespoons Butter (melted)
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 1/2 cups powdered Sugar
1/3 cup Sugar
2 tablespoons Milk

Directions

Step 1: In a large bowl whisk the egg white
Step 2: Add water and vanilla, keep whisking
Step 3: Add flour and salt and your batter is ready
Step 4: Cut the apples into slices
Step 5: Use cutters of various sizes to make rings from the apple slices
Step 6: To fry the rings, heat oil at 375 degrees F (190 deg C)
Step 7: Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 400 degrees F (200 deg C)
Step 8: Dip the apple rings in the prepared batter and fry
Step 9: Turn frequently and fry until golden brown
Step 10: Place on a kitchen paper and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar
Step 11: Bake the rings in the oven for 5-10 minutes until crispy
Step 12: Meanwhile, stir butter, cinnamon, sugar and milk in a bowl until combined to make the icing
Step 13: Add the icing on the apple rings and serve warm

Yield: 8 Servings

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