In Defense of Pope Francis

I am sick of listening to Catholics complain about the Pope because he isn’t Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Why do they think they can judge the Pope? Our Church teaches that the pope is picked by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the cardinals as they vote. Do his critics really believe this? In my opinion if you don’t believe this you might as well not be Catholic. If the pope is not selected by the Spirit and guided by the Spirit, we may as well join a Protestant denomination where they vote on doctrine.
The pope is answerable to only 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. His job is to do what they want not what some people want. He is guided by the Holy Spirit. He is also human, a sinner who also makes mistakes but so has every pope in history including Peter. Why do we focus on the negative? Do we really know what is going on or understand what the Spirit is doing?
I remember how many people criticize Paul VI for his teaching on artificial contraception. Most Catholics ignored it but now we are discovering the medical and societal consequences of contraception. Do you know breast cancer has increased 640% since the pill became common? Do you know how much damage was done to the environment because of the pill or how it contributed to the breakdown of families? I’m sure Paul VI had no understanding of all the consequences, but God did.
Do we understand where Francis is coming from or what God is trying to do? I see Francis emphasizing Jesus’ call to mercy. Didn’t Jesus eat with sinners and call sinners to join Him? Didn’t He say that He came for sinners not the righteous? Did He not say judge not lest you be judged, to forgive 7 x 7? Didn’t God say that He desired mercy not sacrifice? Doesn’t God want us to reach out to sinners? Didn’t Jesus die for them too? Didn’t he criticize the Pharisees for their emphasis on law rather than mercy? What do you think He wants Francis to do?
I hear a lot of criticism of Amoris Laetitia. How well do the critics understand the issue? I know people have deliberately misinterpreted it to suit their own purposes. Isn’t it true that no matter what Francis wrote they would do what they wanted anyway? Have they really thought about the issue of divorce? Jesus taught that what God has put together let no man put asunder. Has God really put all these marriages together? I doubt it. Our society has changed. People don’t wait to be married until they are sure. They certainly don’t seek God’s guidance in selecting a mate.
I know a Protestant minister who was married in the Catholic church at age 17. His bride was 16. It was a legal marriage, but I doubt if it was valid in the eyes of the church and should never have been performed by a priest. But he was in the Army. This was 1968 and it kept him out of Vietnam. His marriage failed, and he never sought an annulment because he thought it would make his 3 kids illegitimate. After he remarried he was told to leave the church. No one really investigated his circumstances and asked if annulment was possible. How many other people like him have left the Church?
I’m sure that a lot of marriages that failed were never valid in the first place. There must be a commitment to make it work, a willingness to be open to children and a commitment to be faithful among other criteria. Jesus said what God has put together let no man put asunder. Do you really think God put a woman with a man who would abuse his wife and children or someone who had no intention of being faithful?
I also heard criticism because a pro-abortion woman in the Netherlands received some award from the Vatican. That proves the pope isn’t pro-life. Some reporter claims that the Pope knows everything that goes on in the Vatican. Really? With his trip to Chile this past week and all the other things going on he will personally investigate every nominee for an award? I know this past week he came out with a strong pro-life statement.
I also heard criticism because the Pope apologized to people during his recent trip to Chile. It was stated that Jesus never apologized. I looked at the paper the same day and read that his apology was to victims of priestly abuse. I know Jesus never apologized but He also never encountered people who were abused by His priests. Think about it if you object to this apology it implies that you see nothing wrong with the abuse.
We must be cautious not to become like the Pharisees who failed to see God in their midst. We aren’t supposed to be a Church of perfect people before heaven. God calls us to reach out to all people. He died for everyone not just the righteous or the conservatives. Can we really be sure that we are so righteous? What about our attitudes of negativity, of judging people, our critical spirits? Can we be so sure that we aren’t the 5:00 workers Jesus referred to in His parable? Don’t we too often reject the Holy Spirit’s nudges?
As Pope Francis said who are we to judge? If we reject what the pope is saying and doing and publicly criticize him how are we different from Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Martin Luther or Archbishop Lefebvre? And what good does it do to criticize the pope? Can he hear your criticism? Is it God or Satan calling you to promote dissension within the Church?

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What Will We Say When God Asks Why We Did Nothing?

This Christmas I became involved in a discussion about how bad the world was getting. The gentleman I was talking to felt the world was going to keep changing so we might as well accept it. Accept the increased oppression of religion, the decline in morality, push for unlimited abortion, everything. Obviously I disagreed.
His attitude was you can win so why bother. No matter what you do the world is going to get worse. I felt we might slow the decline at least and save some people. I also feel that based on the Old Testament God might get fed up if we don’t repent. I also know from history that there have been periodic revivals in America.
Yet to me the best reason to fight is that someday I will have to face God. I don’t want to have to tell him that I just sat there and watched the destruction of society and did nothing that I ignored his call to fight with everything I got. To quote Trace Bailin I want to hear Him say well done. If I lose at least I will have fought and stood up for my God.

Pray Boldly With Faith!

Our prayer group was blessed by the visit of a snow bird, Larry, who was involved in an ecumenical healing ministry in Michigan. Of course we took advantage of the opportunity to be prayed over. One thing I noticed about the way Larry prayed over people was that it was simple, direct and bold. “ In the name of Jesus I command this shoulder to be healed. “ No wishy-washy prayers, no rambling prayers and no doubt that God would answer his prayer and no suggestions to try anti-inflammatory medicine or to do less for God, he just prayed in faith that God would do ask he asked. Isn’t this what the early disciples did?
Isn’t this what we are called to do? We possess the same Holy Spirit as the early disciples. The Spirit we possess is not watered down but present in all His power and love which He passionately longs to pour out upon the world. We have not been given the Holy Spirit to keep for ourselves. We are called to reach out to the people around us and bring His love.
We live in a world desperately in need of God’s love and mercy. We are the people God has created and raised up as His instruments to bring His love to the world. So, why are we holding back? Why are we timid? Why do we lack confidence?
Is our mistake that we think in depends on us? Do we feel inadequate praying over someone? Jesus promised in John 14:12 that we would do greater works than the ones He did. Three times so far this Easter Season we’ve heard that promise. How often have we heard that Promise? When is it going to sink in that He meant it?
We are called to reach out in faith and trust God to do what is best for the people we are reaching out to. Our success does not depend on our abilities or inadequacies but on the infinite love of an almighty God.

The Same Power

There is a song , popular on Christian radio, Same Power by Jeremy Camp, that I first heard as I left the SC Charismatic Conference in October, 2015. It was the very first song I heard after I got into my car and it struck me as confirmation of the conference and the Charismatic Renewal.
The chorus reads like this; “The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake lives in us, lives in us. The same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same powers that can calm a raging sea, lives in us, lives in us. He lives in us, lives in us”.
How true. We have the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit given to the disciples at Pentecost. We been given awesome gifts and we live in a world desperately in need of those gifts. So many around us are wounded in one way or another, whether spiritually, emotionally or physically. It is impossible for our priests and deacons to meet the needs of all those who need someone to pray with them.
We have been given these gifts for a reason. Take a good look at the world around us. Outside of our technological advances are we really any different from Pagan Rome? The Roman Empire was converted because the first Christians weren’t afraid to use the charismatic gifts God had given them. Why are we afraid to use these gifts? Why do we keep them secret as if we are ashamed of them? Why do we worry about what people will think?
Aren’t we called to step out in faith? Didn’t St Francis challenge us to be fools for Christ? Didn’t Jesus promise that we would do greater things than He? Is it a coincidence that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began as our country was turning pagan?
We’ve been given the power to change the world, to turn this country back to God and to bring people back to the Church. We need to use this power. It is the only way we can change our country and the world for the better. Politics is not the answer, God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are.
Pray with people; use the charismatic gifts God has given you. Reach out to those around you. Don’t be afraid or ashamed. The Holy Spirit is calling us to action. He will provide us all we need.

The Kind Of Homily Jesus Would Love!

This morning I heard an awesome homily. Possibly one of the best I ever heard. Father preached about Paul’s line in Hebrews 13:8. “Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” He is the first non-charismatic priest I ever heard point out that the Jesus we meet at mass is the same Jesus who multiplied the loaves, raised the dead and healed the sick.
Isn’t that what Jesus would want us to know? So often when we hear about the Real Presence it seems that Jesus is only present and interested in our spiritual well-being that He isn’t interested in our health or other problems. We vaguely imply that Jesus would bless us in communion but don’t really expect Him to do anything.
Yet in the Gospels we read so often that Jesus’ heart was moved with compassion. We see especially in Matthew that He healed all who came to Him in faith. We see Him changing water into wine. He sought the Samaritan woman at the well. He fed the multitudes so that they would not faint on their way home. Does this seem like a Jesus who only cares about us spiritually?
Didn’t He invite us to come to Him? Didn’t He come so that we might have life and have it abundantly? Didn’t He create the Eucharist as a means for us to come to Him? Isn’t He infinite love incarnate?
Our faith teaches that Jesus is present in the Eucharist in all of His Divinity and in all of His humanity. He is present in all of his power and infinite love. He passionately desires that we come to Him. He longs to bless us to knock our socks off. He is infinite love and infinite wisdom come down to earth in the form of a simple host and wine. The all-powerful God awaits us each time we come to communion so why do we expect so little.
This is the living Jesus in all of His power and glory! Open your hearts, allow Him to do what is best for you. Ask for everything He wants to give and expect miracles.

What Does Jesus Want Us to Know About The Eucharist?

Last night I taught the RCIA class about the Eucharist. After listening to what other members of the team felt was important to include, listening to several Cd’s, watching a video and reading many articles. I thought the most important thing was to be open to the Holy Spirit and think about what Jesus would want us to know.
I am really truly here, present in each host, present in all my power and divinity. I am not a symbol, not just a wafer or a watered down diluted version of myself. I am Jesus Christ present in all my power and glory. I am the same Jesus that walked the dusty roads of Galilee, the God-man who healed the paralytic, walked on water , calmed the storm, fed 5,000 with 5 loaves and a few fish and raised Lazarus from the dead.
I am the same Jesus who loved you so much I endured the most painful death in all of history so that you might spend eternity with me. I am the Jesus who could not bear to leave you, could not wait for you to die so I created the Eucharist as a way to be with you right now.
My love for you is so great, so immense, human words are absolutely inadequate to describe it. Niagara Falls pales in comparison to the love and blessings I long to pour out upon you.
I long for you to come to me. I long to bless you. I know you intimately. I know everything about you. I see all your physical weaknesses and problems, all the ways you suffered physically. I know how much you have suffered emotionally, how many times you have been hurt by others and all the times you have hurt yourself. I see how you beat yourself up, how you find it so difficult to forgive yourself, so difficult to love yourself. I see the sins that trap you and I passionately long to set you free, to make you a new creature in me.
I long for you to come to me in the Eucharist, come to me with an open heart, trusting me to pour my love upon you and do what is best. My desire is for you to be healed completely, whole and to know me intimately in communion, to know and experience my love. Come to me and open your heart so I may pour my love upon you.

We Need Advent!

The other day, November 29th I drove past a neighbor’s house all lit up for Christmas. In recent years I’ve seen people decorating their house on Thanksgiving Day. I even saw a Methodist Church all decorated for Christmas. Yet all my parish church has is an advent wreath.
There is a reason for that. Christmas isn’t here yet. We need to take the time to focus on the spiritual aspects of the season and to think about the real meaning of Christmas not just trees, decorations, gifts and a cute baby in a manger. Christmas is about so much more than a baby and presents. It is about the God who loves us and wants what is best for us. It is about the God who desperately wants a relationship with us and passionately desires for us to spend eternity with him. It is about the God who came to earth in utter humility as an infant so that He could grow up and suffered the most painful death in history to free us from our sins.
Advent is a reminder that there is much more to this life than the temporal that we see. We are more than highly intelligent animals. we have eternal souls that need care and spiritual nourishment. It calls us to lift our eyes out of the cesspool we live in and focus on the God who loves us. We remember that we are called to something greater than the world we live in, a better way of life, a life free of the harmful effects of sin.
We live in a world of pain and selfishness, where everyone is hurting in one way or another. Advent calls us to reflect on a better world, a world of infinite love and mercy. It calls us to focus on Jesus’ infinite love and to bring that love to a world desperately in need of that love.