This book, “Heaven is for real” is an incredible true story about a little boy who has a near death experience and gets the privilege of seeing heaven. He describes in detail his encounter with Jesus and the people he has met in heaven. The book hit the New York Times #1 best sellers list, probably due to the fact that his story is very powerful and believable. I have used this book for a parish book study and have given it out to volunteers as a thank you for their services. I haven’t met a person yet who wasn’t touched in a positive way from reading this book especially if they have lost a loved one. The Deacon at my parish used this book for a few of his homilies as well.
Now Hollywood has put together a movie based on this book starring Greg Kinnear due out this Easter. I recommend reading the book before the movie since they often leave out important details. Below is a snippet from the movie trailer.
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The 2nd Sunday of Advent is a time for “coming home”. In the Gospel reading http://www.myfranciscan.org/december-7/ we hear John the Baptist crying out in the desert for us to prepare the way of the Lord!! calling us to repentence. This week is a good time to reflect on how prepared we are to meet Jesus, because we never know when our end will come? Birth reminds us of death and death is unpredictable so we have to be ready. I’ve heard it said that we should live each day as though it were our last. Preparing is never easy, but nonetheless important and sometimes we need help and that help can be found through the Grace that accompanies confession. It’s unbelievable at times how obstacles in your life can be crushed by this amazing Grace. A next step may be giving up our comfort zones. These comfort zones may be our view point, our bad habits or desires, anything that leads us away from Christ.
John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. This is a powerful statement. Jesus is igniting us with fire and fire needs oxygen to spread and the Holy Spirit needs our collaboration to move freely through us. We may ask ourselves this week if we are allowing Him to work through us as Mary did or do we hold tight to the reigns taking the lead?
Advent is a time of slowing down and waiting which is not easy to do so I’ve included this unique version of Psalm 23 that may help.
I SHALL NOT RUSH
The Lord is my pace setter . . . I shall not rush. He makes me stop for quiet intervals. He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity.
He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here.
His timelessness, His all importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity
by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility. My cup of joyous energy overflows. Truly, harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours.
For I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in His house for ever.
A version of Psalm 23 as reprinted in Mother Teresa, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations, Prayers, ed. Kathryn Spink (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1983), 76-77.
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The week after Halloween, I received a call from a popular company asking me if I were planning on purchasing from their catalogue for Christmas. I couldn’t believe it and told them I would like to get through Thanksgiving before I start thinking about Christmas. Then on Thanksgiving before I’ve had a chance to digest the turkey I was told that Target has massive crowds of people wrapped around the entire building eager to get the Thanksgiving day sales. Forget about black Friday we have to jump start that too. It seems like every year we are being rushed to start earlier than the year before. We rush to beat the crowds to get everything on our list, rush to decorate the inside of our houses, then the outside, we bake, we run from one event to another, all for some fat man in a suite that doesn’t exist, to come down a chimney (I don’t have), to give us presents we don’t need. Could it be, that we changed the Liturgical calendar celebrating Christmas to a pagan solstice feast to gain converts? Perhaps, it was naive to assume the meaning of Advent and Christmas would not be lost from doing so. Ask any American child what Christmas means to them and you will hear answers like, presents, Santa Clause, reindeers, Christmas trees, cookies, etc.
I believe it’s up to us to keep the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts and families and to keep our stress levels down with the rest of the world that does not get it. Their not suppose to get it, 1 John 2:15, John 15:19 Do not love the world or the things in the world If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
The Advent season is ironically opposite of what the world’s interpretation is which includes “rushing” it is about “waiting” waiting with Mary. As she prepares her heart and home for the birth of Christ so do we. Like her we are called to birth Him into the world by the way we live our lives. We prepare during Advent for the evangelization of our faith.
This first week let us reflect on the Annunciation, that one single event in and of itself is remarkable. Mary said “yes” to collaborating with the Holy Spirit for the impossible and we know by faith that which seems impossible for man is not impossible for God (Mark 10:27). In what areas of our lives is the Holy Spirit asking us to collaborate and say “yes”? and like Mary will we be able to let go of the controlling reins and allow the Holy Spirit to take over? Let us light our first candle of the Advent wreath and sit with Mary as she pondered all of these things in her heart (Luke 2:19).
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Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude. Taking a cue from Fr. James Martin SJ who suggested for this festive day we list three unexpected Graces and Blessings that occurred this year. For me it would be
1) All of you and the beautiful things you share with me and others on my blog. You always surprise me with the incredible things you share and the passion in which you share them.
2) All the homeless children I encounter at my job and how their endurance through adversity and abuse keeps me in check of my blessings. They continually teach me humility.
3) The way in which God continually shows me His love for me and our special unexpected mountain top experiences.
Thank you all so much for all of your support and I wish each of you a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING with your family and friends! with many, many countless blessings!
How about all of you? what are the 3 things that were unexpected Graces and Blessings that occurred for you this year?
Get the tissues ready I’ve included in this link below some really great ways that people have blessed others. You won’t want to miss them, they may inspire you to do something special for someone else and change their life for the better. It’s the positive ripple effects that are awesome. We are all instruments to His love. Peace and all Good my friends, much love
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Pope Francis came out with his first apostolic exhortation as Pope call the EVANGELII GAUDIUM “Joy of the Gospel”. It is well worth your time to read this beautiful document. Not everyone will like it for it challenges all of us to consider change, to look at things through a new perspective and to try new things. It brings us hope. I will give you a little snippet (33 Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.)
This document is sure to raise some eyebrows and sets a positive tone for the coming year. You can read it the full content at the link below
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So, here I am in Sedona Arizona, following a path to climb Bell Rock mountain only to discover the path ends and the rest of the climb is “at your own risk”. No markers, no direction, just you and the mountain. Navigating to the top is a physical and mental challenge. I became tired and often out of breath. When I finally managed to reach the top I laid my body down on a supporting rock and stared into the heavens. Often when I reach high destinations I get a sensational need to jump to safety. This overwhelming feeling reminded me of Jesus in the desert on a mountain where the devil tempted him to jump. MATTHEW 4 : 6-7 “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. Scripture has it: ‘He will bid his angels to take care of you; with their hands they will support you that you may never stumble on a stone.’ Jesus answered him, ” Scripture also has it? ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ “ This helped to subdue my sensation to jump.
Like him I over came the temptation and found myself face to face with my inner self and was seized by fear. I don’t know where this emotion came from and why I was experiencing it, but I asked God about it and he showed me how I had been carrying this fear around with me my whole life. Images of my life flashed before me, from a small child to the adult I am today and every pivital event I held fear. I was taken aback by this realization so God showed me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, because His son carried this fear too, it’s a fairly common human condition to life. However, there comes a time in our mature adult lives that we need to find peace with it and let it go as His son did.
I then became aware of my human desires and was able to see how they were not in line with God’s desires for me. Again, I was reminded of Jesus and the devil tempting him with all the kingdoms of the world (the desires of the ego) and from his response I found the courage to let that go from my heart as well. When I felt peace from all of this letting go I became overwhelmed with gratitude and the feeling of God’s deep love for me. As I descended down the mountain I found myself straying part of the way from the designated path and came head to toe with this message below that I believe had to be a message from God to me. It’s not everyday you come across a rock message like this in the middle of no where.
My mountain top experience and its comparisons to Jesus temptation in the desert seemed to invoke within me an unleashing of my long carried fears. I let go of them into the high altitude and felt the high winds of the Holy Spirit cleans me. I felt victory for accomplishing something so hard and long overdue. I will never forget this intimate encounter on the mountain top with God. I hope that through my experience you also feel strengthen to unleash the inner fear that causes you to stumble and that you trust God’s hands to cradle you through the challenges that life holds and to allow God to place you on the rock of living water that will nourish and sustain you with all that you need to move forward on your personal journey writing the story of your life.
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