One question we need to ask ourselves is are our hearts on fire or are we only lukewarm. Jesus warned us in Revelation not to be lukewarm, that He would spit us out. So is your heart on fire?
Does your heart ache for all those who are lost? Do you look at all the empty seats in church and ache for those who are missing out? Do you burn with the desire to bring people closer to God? Do you long to reach out to people and bring them to Jesus? Do you even notice those who are lost?
Do you feel the pain of those who are hurting, those suffering physically from illness or emotionally? Do you look at hurting people and see those Jesus longs to touch? Do you long to reach out and touch them with the love of Jesus? Do we weep for those who suffer?
We are told by Paul to put on the mind of Jesus? Jesus wept for the people of Jerusalem, those who would not respond to His love. We need to reach out to those who are lost, those who are hurting. We need to be filled with zeal, always reaching out and never satisfied. Too many people are lost. Too many people are suffering. Too many people need to be touched by Jesus. We are His hands. We are His feet.
One of the many blessings I’ve had in my life was to spend several summers as a volunteer at Camp Andrew Jackson, part of the Christian Appalachian Project. Part of every day’s schedule included Bible School and prayer before each meal and at night before bed. I remember one camper from the summer of 89. He was maybe 6 or 7 and the last place he wanted to be was in Bible School. It seemed like he literally climbed the walls for that period.
What we basically did was love him and the other campers and encouraged them with praise. We praise their attempts at prayer and their participation. Most of us never knew if anything we did or said had any effect. Several years later he was part of a group of campers I picked up in the camp van. I was amazed at the questions he asked. What he was most interested in was the Bible School program. I thought we had failed with this child but something we did or said stuck. The seeds we had planted had taken root and the wild child had turned into a fine Christian.
I’ve seen the same thing happen with 3 of my friends. Children for whom they had prayed for many years came back to the church. Often they felt it was hopeless but they kept praying and praying. God answered their prayers. We can’t give up. We may not see the effects of what we do but our job is to plant seeds, love people and pray. God will do the rest in his timing.
Recently, I ran across a prayer in a book by Arlene James that really struck me as a prayer perfect for the New Year, “Make me a man You are proud to call Your own.” How often have we thought about making God proud? Too often we think only in terms of what we want.
But isn’t that the purpose of life to live a life pleasing to God? We are called to live for His glory, not ours. This seems to be something our society has forgotten. We emphasize self but that isn’t the life we are called to lead.
Take a good look at your life. Have you made God proud? Are you glorifying God? Are people attracted to Jesus because of the life you lead? Do people see His love and compassion in you? Can people see someone who is different from the rest of society?
Sadly too often the answer is no. We aren’t different from the rest of society. We are just as angry, selfish and negative as everyone else.
But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. With God’s grace we can become the people God created us to be. New Year’s is an awesome time to start. Begin with prayer. God, make me a person You are proud to call your own. Say it everyday and watch what God can do in a single year. And yes, it really can be that simple.
Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid waiting for Christmas? It felt like it took forever to come. That was nothing compared with the wait of Simeon and Anna of Phanuel who waited their entire lives to see the Promised Messiah and Anna was 84. At least they got to see the Messiah. The Jewish people waited over 1800 years from the time of Abraham. Generation after generation lived their whole lives without ever seeing Jesus.
Then there were the Magi who traveled about 2 years by camel across desert and wilderness and then spent another 2 years going home. We are lucky. We don’t have to travel for years. We don’t have to spend our entire lives waiting to visit Jesus. Jesus is present in every tabernacle in the world. Whether at Christ the King in Jersey City, Hillside, New Jersey or Nitro, West Virginia Jesus is present in all His power and glory waiting for us. He longs for us to come to Him so that He may pour His love and blessings upon us.
How do we respond to such an infinite love? The God of the Universe, our creator, He who loves us beyond our imagination waits for us. He passionately desires to bless us. He loved us so much that not only did He endure the Passion but He also created the Eucharist just to be with us.
David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, Daniel, Joseph all yearned to be with Jesus. They longed for the time and privileges that we have now, the access to the Messiah. Would they take Jesus for granted?
We are a privileged people. For most of us the Promised Savior, our Redeemer is a short ride away waiting to knock our socks off. What could be better?
I recently read Max Lucado’s book, Before Amen, the power of a simple prayer. He talks about the advice of another minister to get 120 people to pray for his church. Within 6 months his church had broken their “Sunday attendance record twice …finished the year well over budget” with the “highest ever average Sunday attendance”. They had also “witnessed several significant healings” and “Church antagonism was at an all-time low, and church unity was at an all-time high.” Don’t you want that for your church?
The same day I learned the secret to Billy Graham’s success. One year before a crusade he sent prayer teams to live and pray in the cities where he would be preaching. Prayer was the secret of his success, heavy-duty, daily prayer.
What would happen in our church if we made a commitment to pray for the Church instead of complaining about the preaching, heat and collections? Would it be the same as it is now or would we experience the same miracles Lucado’s church saw?
Our prayer doesn’t have to be eloquent or lengthy. His whole book is about the power of simple prayers. All we need to pray is:
Father, bless this church. Draw us closer to you and to each other. Help us to love you with all our hearts and each other as we love ourselves. Make of us a loving, welcoming community. Draw people to your church, people who need you in their lives. Help us to be examples of your love. Let people see and experience the love of Jesus through us. Help us to reach out to those who need us, to those who are hurting.
Bless our leadership. Guide them in their decisions and in their preaching. Help them to touch our hearts with your love. Help them to inspire us with your word. Help them to lead your people.
Bless and guide all those in roles of service in this church that they may glorify you.
Provide the resources we need to be a blessing to our community, to show your love to a world in desperate need of your love.
Protect our church and all in it.
We ask all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Recently I talked to a couple of extraordinary ministers whose children are “good Baptists”. Baptized Catholic they chose to leave the Church. It makes me wonder if they really understand the precious gift we have in the Eucharist.
To me the number one reason to be Catholic is that I get to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. The Jesus I am privileged to receive is the same Jesus who rose from the dead at the Resurrection, the “Beloved Son” of the Transfiguration, the same one who called Lazarus from the grave and fed the 5,000. Jesus is the same” yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
Jesus is present in all His power, His whole divinity. He is God and for Him nothing is impossible. He passionately waits for us so that He could pour an avalanche of love upon us. He ardently yearns to bless us, t o make us whole. How can we ever think of leaving Him?
Do we realize that the Eucharist is love itself, infinite love just waiting for us to open our hearts so that God may bless us?
Do we know that at the Holy, Holy, Holy of the mass we enter the throne room of heaven that we join the angels and saints in heaven praising God? Do we understand that we stand with St John and Mary beneath the Cross as the sacrifice at Calvary takes place before us on the altar? Do we realize at every mass we step out of time to witness the great sacrifice and gift Christ made for us? Do we know how privileged we are? How can we ever think of changing our faith?
What do you see when you look at a manger? What do you think about? Do you see a cute little baby and think about a sentimental Christmas story? Or do you see the all-powerful God of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth for whom all things are possible? Do you see the God who loves you more than you could ever understand or imagine?
Do you see Jesus who came so that we might have life and have it abundantly? Do you see the Jesus who healed all those who came to Him in faith even raising the dead and who is the “same, yesterday, today and tomorrow”? Do you see Jesus who loved you so much as to go to the Cross willingly?
Do you see Jesus who practically begs us to come to Him with our burdens and who longs to give us rest? Do you see Jesus who loved us so passionately that He created the Eucharist so that we could come to Him? Do we see Jesus who waits longingly day after day in the Tabernacle for our company? Do you see the Jesus who longs to pour out His love, grace and blessings upon us? Do you see the God who ardently yearns to give us His forgiveness, to take us back close to His Sacred Heart?
What do you see?