Friday, September 26, 2014

Troubling Signs - Hopeful Signs

Something I have been noticing, particularly during this year is an increasing sense of danger and tribulation in the world.  In my 45 years of life I have never felt such a sense of danger as I do at this time.  I remember the rhetoric of the cold war, particularly under the Reagan administration.  And I certainly remember stories my parents have told about the end of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  So wars and rumors of wars are nothing new given the intense sufferings of the previous century.

Now, in my own little corner of the world, things still feel relatively safe.  My own town is like an oasis in the world.  However, the increasing violence, lawlessness, and insanity in world conflict, and the increasingly bizarre violent actions that happen randomly and in various places are a cause for alarm.  We are horrified by the aggression of ISIS, particularly by their violent slaughter of Christians.  And there are the news stories catch one's attention.  A couple of weeks ago I ran across a news story of an 81 year old woman in London who was gardening in her backyard and was beheaded by an intruder.  Last week a man in New Albany was arrested for killing his girlfriend and cannibalizing her body.  Then yesterday the news reported the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma City by a recent islamic convert.   These are small samplings of increasing violence and lawlessness.

Add to this the increasing political instability and signs of increasing financial instability, and we have a recipe for global trouble.  Add to this the signs of impending disease and pandemic, and the ingredients are even more potent.  Add to the recipe the increasing natural disasters and the very real threat of environmental degradation and we have an explosive mix waiting for the catalyst to set it off in epic fashion.

This is the world situation.

However, with faith, I also see increasing signs of God's grace.  They are in the little things.  The increase of people coming to the church and asking for faith.  Increasing signs of God care for us even in the little details.  Remarkable and prophetic signs of God's victory over sin and death abound.  It is within the context of the increasing darkness of the world that the light of faith shines ever more brightly.  It points to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart that was prophesied at Fatima and which, I believe, will be fulfilled in our time.

Others write about this with greater finesse than I.  So I share with you the following articles within the blog.  Each reader should always carefully discern when we wade into the prophetic.  But that doesn't mean that we should utterly avoid prophetic signs and writings.  I would rather be like the Magi who carefully and accurately discerned the signs as they experienced them and took the journey to see the newborn Messiah, than to be like the scribes and priests in Jerusalem who, being so totally in league with king Herod, completely missed all the signs.  They were shocked by the message the Magi brought to them, and they were silent (and complicit) when Herod dispatched his soldiers to kill all of the baby boys in Bethlehem.

Having said that, I am reminded of the parable of the 10 Virgins, 5 foolish and 5 wise in Matthew 25.  The foolish did not have sufficient oil for their lamps.  Whereas the wise had plenty of oil ready.  When the bridegroom came at midnight, the foolish were caught unprepared and so they missed the bridegroom.  Whereas the wise were prepared by keeping oil in their lamps.

What does this mean.  The virgins represent the church - the bride of Christ.  Some are prepared for the coming of Christ, and some are not.  The oil represents life in the Holy Spirit.  Having sufficient oil means keeping the graces and charisms of baptism and confirmation stirred up within us.  Operating in the graces of the Lord means a living and vibrant faith in Jesus in the heart of his Church.  These folks are eager for prayer.  They delight in learning spiritual things.  They are zealous in offering generous and humble service to others. One can see the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal 5) operating in their lives.   Whereas lukewarm Christianity is the lack of that oil.  These folks resent anything more than the bare minimum in prayer at liturgy, if they even come to Mass at all.  They tolerate sin or even promote it.  They have no zeal for the gospel of Jesus but they do given themselves over to the current cultural trends and politically correct thinking.

The light of the lamp is Jesus himself.  For those with sufficient oil, the light of Jesus shines brightly in their lives through their experience of the love and mercy of Jesus and their living out this love and mercy through their acts of loving service.  And Midnight represents the hour of darkness when the bridegroom will appear for his bride.

All of these things seem to point that the world is entering into its midnight hour.

One thing is sure.  At all times, Jesus calls to us over and over to be prepared for his coming.  Let us be diligent about making sure that the lamp of faith is in our hands.  Let us pray continuously for the anointing of the Holy Spirit over us.  Let us remain in the light of Jesus through prayer and through faithfulness to his gospel.  In Matthew 7, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners that everyone who hears his words and acts upon them are like the wise person who builds his house upon the rock.  When the storm comes and rages against the house, it remains standing because it was build solidly on the rock.  But the foolish person is the one who hears the words of Jesus but does not act upon them.  They are like the one who builds their house on the sand.  And when the storm comes and rages against it, the house falls and is an utter ruin.

All of these things seem to indicate that the world is entering into the Storm - that convulsion through which the world must pass - that tribulation through which the church will pass.

All this being said, I will let the marvelous Mark Mallett explain in better detail what I am trying to say.  Read on.


Hell Unleashed

WHEN I wrote this last week, I decided to sit on it and pray some more because of the very serious nature of this writing. But nearly every day since, I have been getting clear confirmations that this is a word of warning to all of us.
There are many new readers coming aboard each day. Let me briefly recap then… When this writing apostolate began some eight years ago, the Lord commanded me to “watch and pray”. Following the headlines, it seemed that there was an escalation of world events by the month. Then it began to be by the week. And now, it is daily. It is exactly as the Lord showed me it would happen (oh, how I wish in some ways I was wrong about this!)
As I explained in The Seven Seals of Revolution, what we were to prepare for was a Great Storm, a spiritual hurricane. And as we were to get closer to the “eye of the storm,” events would happen quickly, more fiercely, one on top of the other—like the winds of a hurricane nearest the center. The nature of these winds was made known to me as being the “labour pains” that Jesus described in Matthew 24, and that John saw in more detail in Revelation 6. These “winds”, I understood, would be a wicked blend of mostly man-made crises: intentional and consequential disasters, weaponized viruses and disruptions, avoidable famines, wars, and revolutions.
When they sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind. (Hos 8:7)
In a word, man himself would unleash Hell on earth. Literally. As we look at world events, we can see that this is precisely what is occurring, that all the seals of Revelation are fully opening one upon the other: wars are exploding all over the world (leading the Pope to recently comment that we are already in “World War III”), deadly viruses are rapidly spreading, economic collapse is imminent, persecution is being fanned into a merciless flame, and more and more incidents of bizarre and unrestrained behavior are happening all over the world. Yes, when I say Hell has been unleashed, I am referring to an unleashing of evil spirits.

I have shared with my readers that prophetic word I received in 2005, which a Canadian bishop consequently asked me to write about. At that time, I heard a voice in my heart say, “I have lifted the restrainer.”1 And then in 2012, the sense that God was removing the restrainer.
The spiritual dimension of this is very clear in 2 Thessalonians 2: that a restrainer is holding back lawlessness, that once removed, simultaneously gives Satan free reign with those who have rejected the path of the Gospel.
The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess 2:9-12)
Brothers and sisters, I wrote about this in Warnings in the Windthat we all need to be very careful about opening the door to sin, even small sin. Something has changed. The “margin of error,” so to speak, is gone. Either one is going to be for God, or against Him. The choice must be made, the dividing lines are being formed. The lukewarm are being revealed, and they will be spit out.
That was the warning in the approved apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho, that Rwanda was becoming a warning to the world. After repeated visions and premonitions from the African seers that a genocide was going to burst out—and they were ignored—those who were not walking in grace had opened themselves to a terrible deception, many becoming possessed as they walked about hacking and killing others with machetes and knives until over 800,000 people were dead.

I have been given a repeated word for the past few months: that “the bowels of hell have been emptied.” We can see this in the more obvious manifestations of, say, ISIS (Islamic State), who are torturing, beheading, and murdering non-Muslims. As of this morning, a woman in Oklahoma has now been beheaded. I hope you perceive the timing of this writing today.
But this has already been preceded numerous times by parents killing their children and grandchildren in murder-suicides and the rise of other violent crimes. Then there are the increasing manifestations of bizarre outbursts in public,2 increased glamorization of witchcraft and the occult, black masses, and then the less obvious forms of lawlessness couched in legal terms and imposed on the public. And let us not overlook the growing number of high-ranking clergy who appear willing to depart from Sacred Tradition for more so-called “pastoral” approaches to family issues.
I have already mentioned a priest I know in Missouri who not only has the gift to read souls, but has seen angels, demons, and souls from purgatory since he was a child. He recently confided with me that he is seeing demons now that he has never seen before. He described them as being “ancient” and very powerful.
Then there is the daughter of a very discerning reader who wrote me recently:
My older daughter sees many beings good and bad [angels] in battle. She has spoken many times about how its an all out war and its only getting bigger and the different kinds of beings. Our Lady appeared to her in a dream last year as our Lady of Guadalupe. She told her that the demon coming is larger and fiercer than all the others. That she is not to engage this demon nor listen to it. It was going to try to take over the world. This is a demon of fear. It was a fear that my daughter said was going to envelop everyone and everything. Staying close to the Sacraments and Jesus and Mary are of the utmost importance.
Brothers and sisters, we need to take these collective warnings very seriously. We are at war. But rather than dwell any more here on the explosion of evil we are seeing—that is, the intensifying Storm—I want to make some very concrete suggestions to you of how to guard your heart and that of your families using this daughter’s summary. For the main point above is this: don’t be surprised to see such manifestations of evil to exponentially increase in the days and months ahead. The restrainer has been lifted, and only those who keep the restrainer over evil in their own hearts will be protected.
The words of Jesus come to mind:
I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you. (John 16:4)

Again, the daughter wrote: “Staying close to the Sacraments and Jesus and Mary are of the utmost importance.”
The Sacraments
When’s the last time you went to confession? The Sacrament of Reconciliation not only takes away our sins, but takes away any “right” Satan has that we may have relinquished to him through sin. One exorcist told me that a lot of deliverance happens in the context of sacramental confession. That, and the voice of the accuser is silenced in the face of God’s mercy, thus restoring peace of mind and soul. Satan is a “liar and the father of lies.”3 So when you bring the lies you’ve been living into the light, the darkness scatters.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is Jesus. By receiving His Body and Blood, we are fed the “bread of life” that is the beginning of “eternal life.” By receiving the Eucharist worthily, we fill those empty places in the soul that Satan wants to occupy.4

I like how this daughter said “the Sacraments” and “Jesus.” Because many receive the Eucharist, but they do not receive Jesus. By this I mean that they approach the Sacrament without any comprehension of what they are receiving, as if they were lining up for a free donut. The graces of the Sacrament then are mostly lost. Aside from the crisis in catechesis that has existed for decades, it is still encumbent upon each of us to know what we’re doing, and do it with the heart. 
The preparation for receiving the benefits and graces of the Eucharist is to already be in friendship with God. On the other hand, St. Paul clearly warned that receiving the Eucharist unworthily opens the door to the powers of death.
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. (1 Cor 11:29-30)
The preparation to receiving the graces of the Blessed Sacrament then is what is called prayer. 
…prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father… Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2565
And of course,
Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic Liturgy and personal prayer. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2631
Prayer is not a list of words to say, but a heart listening to the Word. It is a matter of simply praying from the heart—speaking to God like a friend, listening to Him speak to you in the Scriptures, casting upon Him all your cares, and letting Him love you. That is prayer.
And really, what you’re doing is opening your heart to He-who-is-love. This is the antidote to this “demon of fear” that has been unleashed upon the world:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear… (1 John 4:18)
Satan knows this, and thus…
prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselve and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God… the “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2725

I have written a great deal about the Blessed Mother, her role in our times, in our personal lives, and the life of the Church. Brothers and sisters, it is time to ignore the voices of those who obstinately reject the theology of this Mother and simply get on with the business of letting her mother you. If the Father was okay with entrusting Jesus to her, He is okay with entrusting you to her as well.
But in the context of this meditation, let us renew our commitment today to the Rosary. The chief exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, recounts what a demon revealed under obedience.
One day a colleague of mine heard the devil say during an exorcism: “Every Hail Mary is like a blow on my head. If Christians knew how powerful the Rosary was, it would be my end.” The secret that makes this prayer so effective is that the Rosary is both prayer and meditation. It is addressed to the Father, to the Blessed Virgin, and to the Holy Trinity, and is a meditation centred on Christ. Echo of Mary, Queen of Peace, March-April edition, 2003
Indeed, as St. John Paul wrote in an apostolic letter:
The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer… The centre of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus. … it is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to his mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary. —JOHN PAUL II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 1, 33 
Satan hates the Rosary because, when prayed with the heart, it conforms the believer more and more to the likeness of Christ. Padre Pio once said,
Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for Her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. 

The above are what I would call the fundamentals of battle. But we need to shore up the details as well, drawing from the wisdom of the Church and her experience on how to close the cracks that Satan and his minions will exploit unless we seal them.

Closing Spiritual Cracks:
• Have your home blessed by a priest.
• Pray together every day as a family.
• Use Holy Water to bless your children and spouse.
• Fathers: you are the spiritual head of your home. Use your authority to rebuke evil spirits when you see them trying to gain entrance to your family. (Read A Priest in My Own Home: Part I and Part II)
• Wear sacramentals such as the Scapular, St. Benedict’s medal, Miraculous medal, etc. and have them properly blessed.
• Hang a picture of the Sacred Heart or Divine Mercy image in your home and consecrate your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
• Be sure to confess all sin in your life, especially serious sin, making concrete steps to avoid it in the future.
• Avoid the “near occasion of sin” (read The Near Occasion).

Closing Physical Cracks:
• Do not watch horror films, which are a portal of evil (and use discretion with other films, more and more which are dark, violent, and lustful).
• Disassociate from those who lead you into sin.
• Avoid cursing and negativity, which ex-satanists say attract evil spirits.
• Be mindful that many musical artists today have consecrated their “music” to Satan—not just heavy metal bands, but pop artists. Do you really want to listen to music inspired or “blessed” by the evil one?
• Keep custody of your eyes. Pornography has powerful physical and spiritual implications. Jesus said “the lamp of the body is the eye.”
…if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. (Matt 6:23)
But remember:
God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 3

All of what I’ve said presumes that the fundamentals are in place. Otherwise, we can be led into a false security thinking that a crucifix protects us rather than Christ; that a medal is a our security rather than our Mother; that sacramentals are a form of salvation rather than our Savior. God uses these little means as instruments of His grace, but they cannot replace the fundamental necessity of faith, “without which it is impossible to please God.”5
Yes, there is one other word I’ve been hearing in my heart for several weeks now: the darker it becomes, the brighter the stars will be. You and I are to be those stars. This Storm is an opportunity to be light to others! How delighted I was, then, when I read Our Lady’s words allegedly to Mirjana yesterday:
Dear children! Also today I call you to also be like the stars, which by their light give light and beauty to others so they may rejoice. Little children, also you be the radiance, beauty, joy and peace – and especially prayer – for all those who are far from my love and the love of my Son Jesus. Little children, witness your faith and prayer in joy, in the joy of faith that is in your hearts; and pray for peace, which is a precious gift from God. Thank you for having responded to my call. —September 25th, 2014, Medjugorje
Hell has been unleashed upon the earth. Those who do not recognize the battle risk being overwhelmed by it. Those who want to compromise and play with sin today are putting themselves in grave danger. I cannot repeat this enough. Take your spiritual life seriously—not by becoming morose and paranoid—but by becoming a spiritual child who trusts every word of the Father, obeys every word of the Father, and does every thing for the sake of the Father.
Such a child renders Satan helpless.
…by the mouth of babes and infants, thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)
Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life. (Phil 2:14-16)

Another blog I found is a kind of forum for prophetic writing.  What is interesting to see is were various "messages" tend to converge.  Again, discernment is always necessary.  I offer the following for your discernment.  Certainly, the content of the message is a call to intense prayer - which can never hurt and can only help.  So, dear reader, heed the call to direct intercession for our communities, for our nation, and for our world.

John - Servant of God


Communication #1

The Next Thirty Days

At times, it is very difficult to know what God’s Plan is. It is so perfect that, often, we have no idea as to what to expect.
Thus, we come to the purpose of this memo.
We are aware of various visionaries and messengers who have (amazingly) received this startling and parallel communication without prior knowledge of each other’s messages. The communication is this:
Stop activity for the next 30 days and pray intensely (or variations of this statement).
My thinking is that mutual communication of this sort is one of many ways the Lord is creating to keep us informed in the midst of the spiritual battle that is taking place. As always, I ask for your prayers and DISCERNMENT.
Here are some examples of other folks that have received this message in one way or another:

My wife Maria:

My wife Maria was sharing with me that after praying the Rosary heard the voice of Jesus tell her not to purchase any large item for the next Thirty days. We were both puzzled and could not understand what was going on.

John Martinez, Jr.

I went into prayer and asked Our Lady about what the next 30 days was all about. She gently told me that it was not meant for me to know yet. She told me to share with the world community that she is requesting for the entire world to be united in prayer and fasting for the next 30 days.

Mother of God Website – Shut down for the next 30 days.

I received an email from the founder of the Forum for The-Mother-of-God and it reads as follows:

Mother of God:

Hi Everyone,
I was praying to Our Lady yesterday evening and got strong sense the she wanted me to lock down and close the forum for a period of one month. I took some time to consult with other members of the forum for discernment. Upon returning to Our Lady in prayer I got a very strong urgent prayer confirmation that I should comply with her wishes and this is what I have done. So the forum will be closed until the 21st of October.
Why does Mary wish this? I have no idea, I wasn't told. I could speculate it might be any one of a hundred things, to protect the forum from attack , or to cause us to pray more, or to slow things down, I just don't know.
I do know I have had strong feelings about dramatic events in our poor world next month.
It sounds like a really dumb idea closing a busy forum like this for such an extended period, but then the Wisdom of God often appears mere foolishness to men. I do know in going again in prayer to the Feet of Mary I receive even stronger interior confirmation that this is Heaven's will.
So do not be too hard on me, I only try to follow what the Boss says. She knows what she is doing even if we don't.
I had hoped to leave the PM function open, to let people access the site without posting and to leave the prayer requests open for posting but this does not seem technically to be possible.
It sounds trite but I am really and truly missing you all already. I better go before I go all mushy. God and Our Blessed Mother Bless you all.
Remember her requests, Pray, pray, pray the rosary.
Engage in radical personal conversion.
Stay close to Mother Church.
See you bright and early on the 21st, of the month of the Holy Angels, October.

Jim Fifth:

It has become apparent to me that Heaven is becoming silent as of lately, almost like the silence at the eve of war when the 2 armies are face to face, just waiting for the first to strike to occur. Many visionaries and mystics have fallen silent with the sense of a need for prayer (which has left me with little to post as of lately). Even our protestant brothers and sisters are experiencing similar nudges. For instance, Rick Wiles, host of, felt a prompt by the Holy Spirit to drastically alter his broadcast from one of information to one focused on prayer and intersession. Truly, Heaven's silence is almost deafening.
I have heard this message from sincere Christian brethren throughout the world; we do not have an answer as to its meaning, but need to be obedient to Our Lady and the Holy Spirit who are telling us to be united as a world-wide-community.
Again, let us to pray, pray, pray with all our hearts and fast for the next 30 days!
Let us be united in Jesus through Mary,
John-Servant of God
Note from Webmaster: If anyone has also experience such an occurence in recent days, please share your story with us. We can be reached at (Please let us know if we have your permission to post your comments.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

power for conversion - the parables of Jesus

OT 15th Sunday                                                                      7-13-2014
Is 55:10-11          Psalm 65          Rom 8:18-23          Mt 13:1-9

I have been thinking about this parable recently and am reposting the homily from the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  First, because I think this parable is such an important message for out times.  Second, because I noticed some lines from the original posting that were missing - that were in the original homily but somehow were deleted.  Third, because I have recently been having some fun with adding pictures to the blog.  And, in this posting I am also adding the text of the gospel as the necessary text for contemplation.   In the Sunday proclamation, I recall reading only the shorter text for the sake of time.  Here in the blog I am including the longer text with the interpretation that Jesus himself gives.

Gospel MT 13:1-23
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore. 
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow. 
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up. 
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. 
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots. 
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?” 
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. 
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understandIsaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear. 
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. 
But he has no root and lasts only for a time. 
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away. 
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit. 
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”


For three weekends this July we get to listen to parables from the Gospel of Matthew.  Today is the parable of the sower and the seed.  Next Sunday we will hear the parables of the wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed, and the yeast in the dough.  And at the end of July we will hear the parables of the buried treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, and the fishnet full of fish of every kind.

Parables are great.  They are multilayered, kind of like an artichoke.  Ever cook and eat an artichoke?  You pull the layers off to get the soft part of the leaf at the bottom.  Dip it in butter and eat it.  Yum.  Layer after layer.  Parables are like that.  So our job is to listen closely at Mass and ponder the layers of meaning.  When we give time to prayerfully study and meditate on the scriptures, then God is faithful to give us power for conversion.  Conversion of our own lives and of our community.

In order to hear scripture fruitfully I offer a little prayer I like to use.  Youve heard me say it before.  Its simple.  Something like this:
Lord, open my ears to hear your Word.  
Lord, open my mind to understand your Word.
Lord, open my heart to believe your Word.  
Lord, open my life to live out your Word.

Easy.  With that prayer to help us, lets go forward.  This first parable is the farmer who sowed the seed in the field.  Now, in any field, there is the main area that has good tilled earth, soft and ready.  This is usually the middle of the field.  And we know what the margins of the field are like.  Fence rows with weeds, paths, and rocky areas. So when sowing seeds - avoid the bad spots and farm where the seed will grow.  Right?

But Jesus farmer is different.  The seed is being thrown everywhere - on the path, on the rocky ground, in the middle of the weeds, as well as on the good soil.  Now remember, this parable is not really about farming techniques.  Instead, it is about Gods method for cultivating our souls.  So the sower is Jesus, the seed is the gospel, and our souls are the field.   God brings us his Word of salvation no matter what condition our souls are in.  In this parable Jesus teaches about what prevents us from growing in our faith.  So lets take a deeper look. 

Problem #1.  Ignorance.  This may be the #1 reason why some Catholics leave the Church.  We have a rich deposit of faith, but some people dont bother to study it and understand it. They come to Mass occasionally but not every Sunday.  They bring their kids to RE classes or Catholic school, but dont really practice the faith at home.  So the kids grow up ignorant of the faith because the parents never understood it or practiced it.   They dont want to grow in knowledge. They are ignorant of their faith.  And so they are easy prey for the devil, who comes to steal their faith.  They leave the Church.  They may go to another religion that tickles their fancy or they stop going all together.  How many people have lost their faith because of ignorance?  
never understood it or practiced it. 

People of God  Decide today to grow in knowledge of the faith.  Lets cultivate our souls through study of sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and church teaching.

Problem #2.  Shallowness. This is the 2nd problem Jesus addresses.  These people have some knowledge of the faith BUT there is not much of a relationship with Jesus and with his church.  They can be enthusiastic while times are good.  But when the difficulties come, then they fall away. They were never transformed by a deeper relationship with Jesus and his Church.  That relationship is cultivated through a personal commitment to ongoing prayer and worship.  But they dont do that and so they are shallow in their faith.  They are easy prey for the devil, who comes to steal their faith.  How many people have lost their faith because of spiritual shallowness?

People of God - let us make a decision today for spiritual depth.  Lets cultivate our souls by seeking true spiritual depth together through regular prayer and worship.

Problem #3.  Distractions.  This is the third problem Jesus addresses - distractions.   He specifically mentions anxiety and the lure of riches.  This one is so relevant for today.  We have many distractions.  There is so much noise all around us and even inside our heads.  It is easy for people to become completely distracted.  And then, before we know it, there is no time for personal prayer.  Sunday Mass is merely another option for the weekend.  Time for spiritual growth cant compete with work, or sports, or other activities.  The gospel of Jesus has no opportunity to change these people because there is no time or place for it.  They have a malnourished and shallow faith because of too many distractions.  And so they are easy prey for the devil, who quickly steals their faith.  How many people have lost their faith because of distractions?

People of God - let us make a decision today to set aside distractions and make Jesus and his Church our highest priority.  Lets cultivate our souls by putting God first.

God desires to cultivate our souls for the salvation of the world.  What the church does in Marion County truly matters  not just for our own community but even for the whole world.  So here is the guarantee of the Word of Christ we hear today.  A soul prepared by spiritual knowledge, spiritual depth, and spiritual focus will bear a rich harvest.  A harvest of love.  A harvest of service.  A harvest of holiness.  A harvest that can truly change the world.

Whoever has ears  let them hear!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The parable of the landowner and the vineyard - OT 25th Sunday

OT 25th Sunday                                                                                September 21, 2014
Is 55:6-9                    Ps 145                        Phil 1:20-24,27                    Mt 20:1-16

This weekend we celebrate baptisms in our parish.  And this weekend we celebrate those catechists who teach us about our faith in Jesus Christ.  What a gift it is to receive new life in Christ through baptism!  What an incredible richness it is to continue learning about the mystery of this new life in Christ.  The mystery isn’t difficult for us to understand.  It is all summed up in God’s immense love and mercy for us.  The mystery opens up for us continually when we love God and neighbor in return. 

For these little ones who we baptize this weekend, let us think about what we want them to inherit from the church.  Parents promise to be the first and best teachers of the faith.  Which, of course, implies that parents have an obligation to continue learning and growing in our faith in Jesus.  And as a Church, we have an obligation to one another – creating a culture of worship and learning and service in our parish so that these little ones will inherit a lively church full of people who truly love God and one another. 

Jesus describes this relationship with God in the parable from Matthew 20.  It is an odd parable at first glance, but one that is quite profound once we get into it.  So let’s explore what it teaches us about the faith we receive and hand on to our children.

Let’s begin with an example.  Ladies, consider the good husband for you.  He is one who is kind and tender towards you, but tough enough with the outside world to keep your home safe.  He is willing to sacrifice for you, and quite frankly, he would die for you if necessary to protect you.  As a contrast, what about the guy who wants to marry you for your money or your looks and whatever else he can get out of the relationship with you.  And if you don’t produce the way he wants, he leaves for something else. 

Or let’s consider the good friend.  That person is kind, considerate, generous, and accepting.  They are a friend even in times of trouble, and love us even when we are at our worst.  As a contrast how about hanging out with shallow people who will only stick around when it is fun, but will gossip about you and stab you in the back if it helps them get ahead.

I think we get the idea.  The good relationship is based on a self-sacrificial kind of love.  The other relationships are more like mercenaries who use other people for their selfish ambitions.

The parable of the landowner opens this idea for us.  The landowner is the Lord.  He comes to us and finds us, inviting us to this great project of building up the kingdom – with this image of laborers in the vineyard.  Some are called early to help, and some are called later in the day.  The landowner offers even the latecomers a great generosity with a full day’s pay.  And he offers the all-dayers the same good reward.  But some of the all-dayers grumbled that it wasn’t fair.

In the parable Jesus illustrates a problem that many people have in their relationship with God by way of contrast.  Jesus himself offered the perfect example of love of God and neighbor.  Remember when Jesus said this; “greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.”  And so Jesus laid down his life for us – he was willing to suffer the humiliating and painful death of the cross - for us.  He didn’t gain anything out of that gift except the outpouring of his blood just like the outpouring of his love.

The grumblers in the parable did not exercise mutual love or gratitude.  Instead they treated their relationship with the landowner as one that made them more like a mercenary than a friend.  They wanted what they could get out of it for their own gain.  This is the problem that we sometimes have in relating with God.  We treat him more like a sugar daddy.  We want to have what we can get out of him. 

So let’s bring it down to the here and now.  The mercenary comes to Mass hoping to be entertained or maybe to punch their Sunday obligation “hell-fire insurance card.”  And if the music or the preacher or the altar servers or whoever or whatever else doesn’t tickle their fancy they become bored or angry.  They are here for what they can get out of it.  They aren’t interested in Christian service.  They don’t want to learn anything new.  They are spiritually shallow and so the word of God doesn’t take root in them.  And when the going gets tough they leave for the next thing that tickles their fancy.

But the true friend of Jesus comes to Mass to offer themselves in love to Our Lord and to one another.  They are ready to worship and give it their all.  They are ready to be formed by the Word of God, to learn and to grow spiritually.  They are ready to be transformed by the Eucharist into the loving image of Jesus.  They are willing to give their lives in love and humble service.  These people would even give their lives as martyrs for the love of Jesus and of his Church.

Perhaps all of us struggle with our inner mercenary.  And hopefully all of us want to be that faithful disciple of Jesus.  So the question before us is this:  in the end, what will we have chosen?  And what will we teach our children to choose? 

I pray that our answer will lead us to be the church that Jesus needs us to be.  A church with a dynamic culture of worship and service.  A church that leads many people to a saving and sacramental relationship with Jesus and with his Church.  A church that shows us how to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  A Church that brings about the kingdom of heaven here on earth, and shows us all the way to God.