Why Confess To A Priest?

Yesterday I was asked why confess my sins to a priest rather than go directly to God. If you think about it confessing to God would be a lot less humiliating than to a priest. However, think about Jesus being crucified on the cross. What could be more humiliating than that? If you really look at the Protestant logic the next question would be why confess our sins to God. He already knows them.
When I really think about it the greatest reason to avoid confession is pride, the deadliest of the 7 deadly sins. It is our pride that holds us back, pride and fear which does not come from God. We need to humble ourselves to recognize that we are indeed sinners and that we need God’s grace to conquer our sinful nature.
We need confession for a lot of reasons. It gives us perspective on our lives. So often we beat ourselves up which is not what God wants for us in His love for us. A good regular confessor can point out the progress we make. A good confessor can encourage us and advise us how to avoid this sin in the future. We can be confident that everything we say is totally confidential and bound by the seal of confession. We can also be confident that our sins are forgiven. Even the name of the Sacrament is important. It reminds us that we need reconciliation with our God, our church and each other,
Jesus created the Sacrament of Reconciliation out of love for us. He knew our weaknesses, our tendency to sin, our doubts about our worthiness for forgiveness, our fears and insecurities. He knew we needed to hear a real voice tell us our sins are forgiven, that we need encouragement and counsel. He knew all this so we created this great sacrament. Who are we to question His love and mercy? Who are we to refused this great gift of Christ? Who do we think we are to reject this awesome source of God’s grace?
Remember that pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins. Do not give into it and reject such a beautiful sacrament and source of grace.

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Where Does Jesus Stand?

This week I received an email from a woman who usually sends me things like novenas and religious articles. It was a petition to ban Middle Eastern refugees from the U.S. I deleted it after thinking what does Jesus think of all of this.
How would he feel about some of his followers taking such a position? It is understandable the fear that terrorists might slip in but aren’t there other ways for them to come? Are we to rely on only military force and homeland security or are we to rely on God? Tough choice. Read the story of Hezekiah in Kings when he relied on God the Assyrians were defeated without battle. A plague killed 70,000 in one night.
What bothers me most is that many of these refugees are Christian being driven out of their homeland for refusing to convert. Shouldn’t Christians at least support them?
Is this what Jesus asks of us, to turn our back on those who are threatened?

After Paris We Need To Pray!

The terrorist attack on Paris this weekend has me thinking. Something that horrific happens let no more people than usual show up at church here. Yet if you really think about them the attacks illustrate the folly of relying only on intelligence and security forces to keep us safe.
If you remember 9/11 you’ll also remember how packed the churches were afterwards. An article today shows the same thing happened in Paris. A better thing would be to not wait for an attack then run to church.
Now before any attacks hit this country is the time to pray. We need much more than Homeland Security. We need God’s protection. We live in a target rich country. How many stadiums will be filled with close to 100,000 people as college football rivalries take place next weekend? How many basketball arenas and NFL stadiums will be packed. The opportunities are endless. We desperately need God’s protection.
As a people we need to return to church. We need to begin praying desperately for the conversion of this nation. We need to become once again a country worthy of God’s protection.

Our Greatest Spiritual Problem!

The more I read and listen to people the more I believe that our greatest spiritual problem is the fact that in our hearts we don’t really believe that God truly loves us as we are. We fail to believe how awesome God is and that He is love itself.
God is incapable of not loving us. It is against the very nature of God. Jesus called God, Father in His prayers and in the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer. That is who God is, our infinite all-loving eternal father. Nothing we can do can separate us from His love. Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. He wants to bless us abundantly.
We focus on our sins and failings. We think we are unworthy of God’s blessing. We’ll be happy to get through life and sneak in the back door of heaven or to get into Purgatory. We go through life expecting God to do very little for us. Why should He? After all look at all we’ve done wrong, all we ways we’ve messed up. How could He bless us? We don’t deserve it.
Yet in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus saw and knew all the sins we’d ever commit. He knew before the Passion the horror of Our Sins. Yet He chose to go through the most horrific painful death in all of history because He loved us. His love was so great that He was willing to suffer intense pain and die so that we might be saved. How could He not bless us.
How painful to Him is the fact that we fail to accept the blessings and graces He so passionately longs to give us! We so often act like the people of Nazareth who expected nothing and received exactly that.
We need to open ourselves up to His awesome love, to trust in His love and mercy. We need to believe that despite all that we’ve done He loves us more deeply, passionately than we can ever imagine.
Pray for His grace to believe, to trust in His love and mercy. Expect Him to do great things

What Is Most Important!

This past Friday one of the candidates for RCIA passed away suddenly. God was awesome! A priest from a neighboring parish was able to baptize and anoint her in time. It makes you think about the awesomeness of God. First some one invited her to RCIA and accompanied her to every class. Secondly, the candidate accepted the Invitation and made the decision to become Catholic at this time rather than waiting until next year. How much grace was involved in that situation!
There was a question of how a priest could baptize her without her finishing the class. If you think about it this shows what is most important. One of the primary purposes for the Church is to help people get into heaven. That is why Christ gave us the sacraments and created the Church to bring people to Him in heaven. He died so all could be saved.
It is true that the Church has a lot of rules and most people have to finish the RCIA process before becoming Catholic. There is a reason for that. We live in a sinful world and we need to know how to become holy in this world of iniquity. We need all the help we can get to live out the life God created us for and wants for us.
The rules become irrelevant when one is dying. You no longer need their help to live in this sinful world. What you need is God’s grace and salvation. It reminds me of the parable about the workers in the vineyard where those who started work at 5:00 made the same amount as those who labored all day. God’s desire is for all of us to repent, come to Him and be saved. That is what is most important!

So Much We Could Gain!

My first real ecumenical experience took place the summer of 86 when I served as a volunteer with the Christian Appalachian Project at Camp Shawnee. We worked with kids who were 95% non-Catholic and not all of the staff was either. Instead of talking about the Church we talked about Jesus and what we had in common. The way I figured it our job was to point to Jesus in our prayers and in the daily Bible Studies. If we did that He would do the rest.
Most nights we got together as a staff for prayer. We took turns leading prayer and often used readings and spontaneous prayers. Sometimes we used contemporary Christian music, something I had never heard of before except for Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Often on weekends we sat around and talked about God and our spiritual experiences.
That summer opened up a whole new world for me. I taught in an inner-city Catholic high school and often worked on prayer services with the students. The songs from Glory and Praise really didn’t work so I was delighted to discover Contemporary Christian Music and soon after Christian bookstores. I found a brand new world opening up as I discovered authors like Max Lucado and Ken Gire. Since they wrote for many different denominations they focused on Jesus and God’s love. They basically pointed to Jesus.
What was so awesome about their writings was how simple they were even for high school students to understand. I remember a book called God Came Near by Max Lucado. There’s a chapter when He talked about the commonness of the name of Jesus in Palestine In the 1st Century. It was the most common name and Jesus picked it because He wanted people to feel free to approach Him. I can’t tell you how many of my students were blessed by that story or Lucado’s updated version of the Prodigal Son In He Chose the Nails.
I and my students were so blessed by Contemporary Christian Music. To hear I’m Accepted (by the One who matters most) a Degarmo and Key song, Awesome God by Rich Mullins, Matthew West’s He Loves You More or Larnelle Harris’ I Miss My Time With You is to be touched by God.
There is so much I’ve discovered, awesome worship music, powerful movies like Facing the Giants, Courageous and Fireproof, clean TV series shown on Hallmark and powerful and clean novelists like Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers and Beverly Lewis. I’ve found people who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit operating through simple people like you and me to work miracles.
There is so much we can gain if we open ourselves up to ecumenism rather than hiding behind closed doors. We live in an age when our Christian values are under attack and people are literally killed for believing in Christ. It is insanity not to reach out to our Christian brothers and sisters. We don’t have to agree on everything. We need to stand together, work together and pray together to win this world to Christ. Our job is to point to Jesus. Let Him take care of the rest.

Feeling Totally Inadequate!

Feeling Totally Inadequate!

Last weekend we had the state charismatic conference at my parish. I served on a prayer team, an experience that had me feeling at times totally inadequate and way out of my league. First there was a prayer session for those on the prayer teams.
As I looked around the meeting I was overwhelmed by the people there. They had been serving on prayer teams and in the Charismatic Renewal since the Seventies and Eighties. I on the other hand had been charismatic for about a decade. I listened to their prayers and their praying in tongues and felt they were way beyond me. I felt like an amateur in a roomful of professionals.
Then on Friday night as we prayed over people there was a woman with multiple issues. I felt so inadequate praying over her that I suggested she get prayed over again the next night. Saturday afternoon she again came to my team to be prayed over for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At one point she started sobbing and all I could think of was to keep praying in tongues.
That evening when they asked for testimonies she got up to speak. Du ring the prayer sessions she had been delivered from anger, hatred and bitterness. During her testimony she pointed to the exact spot we had prayed over her.
You see it is not about us or how qualified we think we are. It is about an awesome loving God who wishes to bless His people and delights in using those who are not qualified, those who are weak or feel inadequate, people like me or you. It is for His glory that we serve and pray. It is by His Spirit and power that we act. We may feel inadequate but our God is infinite. What an awesome God we serve.