Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent and the Pain of God-2012

Many people think that God is not affected by our sins, by our lack of compassion for others, our selfishness or our tendency towards pride. But I think God is affected and that our sins cause God great suffering and pain. I don't think God is removed.
When I read about our world, about how many people are still suffering from hunger, ("Hunger in Nigers threatens millions,") or the lack of good health care, education or even basic necessities so many suffer with, it makes me wonder why humankind has not evolved more. When I read how some animals are mistreated and even illegally killed through poaching (they can't protect themselves from greed or ignorance) it saddens me. Headlines such as this, "African elephants are being killed in great numbers" disturb me. I try to do my part, I write a check to the World Wildlife Fund with a letter of my concern, I'm sure it's not enough. I am a member of Bread for the World, an excellent organization, there are so many organizations, secular and religious doing good in the world and yet so many problems still exist. I imagine God is greatly saddened by the events that humans cause and the havoc our insensitivity and greed creates amongst humans and in the animal kingdom. Of course, there is all that goodness, conservation and help too........
We live in a fallen world and each day that you read the news that's obvious enough. But it is also a beautiful world filled with goodness, love, hope, kindness and beauty. People act heroically everyday, trying to do the right thing. People of faith do a great deal of good in the world.
Each one of us has to take a stand for good. Each one of us has to do all we can to end hunger on this planet, to take responsibility for the care of the earth and its resources and God's creations.
Lent is a good time to think about "the more" that each one of us can do. And we can all do more, myself included. We have to be the hands, heart and compassion of Jesus in the world.
May you have a holy, enriched experience this Lent. I will try to find more time for silence, reflection, Christian meditation, mindfulness, deep prayer and communion with God. (I also need some more sunshine!) I hope you will too.
(I'm taking a little break from blogging, be back soon)

Powerful Words From St. Teresa of Avila-

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world
Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.

It is love alone that gives worth to all things.
(St. Teresa of Avila-Doctor of the Church)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's Challenge-The New Evangelization in New York

Congratulations to Cardinal Timothy Dolan on his elevation to the College of Cardinals and also for finding the winning formula to win over Catholic New Yorkers, the NY media and the Church hierarchy as well. No small feat. He's intelligent but his mother raised him well too. That's obvious. Cardinal Dolan knows how to smile and make others smile, how to laugh and keep things in perspective and that's very good.
No one knows better the importance of the New Evangelization than Cardinal Dolan. He's been in New York long enough to know what's going on. New York City is a culturally rich, diverse, creative and stimulating place. Some call it the "Capital of the World." If a good strategy for the New Evangelization works here, that will help it to work in other places as well. Movements start in NY and move elsewhere. It's very important that the New Evangelization works here.
I'm in Manhattan frequently as my two young adult sons live there. They live in a trendy neighborhood and there are many such neighborhoods in NYC and they're all teeming with young adults. Some of them are Catholic. As Cardinal Dolan mentioned in his keynote talk given at the pre-consistory gathering of the Pope and the College of Cardinals, there is secularism in New York but there is also deep faith. The challenge for the Cardinal and for all who are serious about the New Evangelization is making it work, really work, with positive results because the future of the Church in New York and its surroundings will depend upon it. There are just too many young people who have opted out of organized religion. That's the sad reality. The challenge is showing them that the Church has something to offer which is life-giving and enriching and that starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Cardinal Dolan in his talk spoke of a 7-point plan for the New Evangelization. He mentioned that Jesus is the one who can "satisfy the thirst of the human heart." Those who were listening know that and I know that but the challenge is to bring others to that realization.
Cardinal Dolan will have to surround himself with creative, innovative thinkers, who can brainstorm new ways to implement the New Evangelization. I think that is one of his most important roles as a newly installed Cardinal of New York.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Knicks Jeremy Lin-"Taiwanese Tebow"

My son is a huge Knicks fan. He's been one for as long as I can remember. His room, when he was growing up, was covered with Knicks memorabilia. Like most basketball fans, especially Knicks fans, the unexpected, almost miraculous rise of New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin is giving fans hope and excitement. Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate came from obscurity to stir the imaginations and interest of basketball fans everywhere. Some journalists have called him, because of his faith and his willingness to witness to it-"Taiwanese Tebow."
He gives modern meaning to the biblical quote, "With God all things are possible." The first video clip I watched of Jeremy Lin playing basketball, I saw him point upwards after he scored and I knew at that moment he was giving glory to God. I didn't have to read that he was a Christian or that he had deep faith, in that moment I saw it for myself.
In a recent interview he was quoted as saying, "I'm just thankful to God for the Bible says, 'God works in all things for the good of those who love him.'"
His pastor from Redeemer Bible Fellowship in Mountain View, California said of him and his parents, "They are 'conservative in nature' and 'evangelical in faith.'" I also read that Jeremy Lin wanted to be a pastor.
As reported by Daniel Burke in a Religion News Service story, "According to Tom Krattenmaker author of the book, Onward Christian Athletes, many see similarities between Tebow and Lin." Both athletes speak about how God gave them inner strength and courage through the difficult times. Both men praise God in interviews. And of course, Tim Tebow started "tebowing" and Jeremy Lin I saw point upwards, both gestures intentionally giving the glory and gratitude to God.
Thank God for athletes, like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin who use their many gifts and talents for good and don't forget to give honor and praise to God for their abundant blessings.

After the amazing game he played on Valentine's Day, he said this to a post game interviewer:

I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!! (Jeremy Lin)
To that I say-Amen!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Obama's Mistake-Forgetting To Keep A Promise

There is a general mistrust of elected officials and its worse than at any other time in history. Over and over again, politics get in the way of common sense decisions. President Obama could have saved himself a lot of stress and second guessing his recent decision on health care, if only he had kept his promise to Archbishop Dolan. He should have also taken the advice of his Vice President- Joe Biden, who advised him (along with others) that the controversial HHS mandate requiring contraceptive coverage in health insurance programs would alienate a lot of people and be seen as "government intrusion on religious institutions and religious liberty."
I watched Archbishop Dolan on "CBS This Morning" stating that President Obama assured him in November in the Oval Office, that the "administration would not do anything to impede the Catholic Church." Archbishop Dolan looked concerned on television as he said that now "he would take anything that the President said with a grain of salt," and that he was "skeptical of the President."
President Obama is now seeking a compromise, he wants to quell the uproar and accusations that "the federal government has drifted dangerously beyond its constitutional boundaries."
Many other religious leaders have joined the Catholic Church in its opposition to the mandate. Rick Warren, the influential Protestant pastor and author said that he would rather go to jail than to "cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do." Many Jewish leaders as well have given support to the U.S. bishops opposition to the mandate.
No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes but President Obama should have seen this coming. He also should not have broken a promise to an Archbishop. That's never a good idea, especially an influential, well liked Archbishop who is becoming a Cardinal very soon. The Archbishop also seems to get along well with the media and is very comfortable on television. He is clearly someone you should keep a promise to, once you make it.
I would think President Obama has learned a lesson-when you say something mean it and always keep a promise.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Power of Belief

People who believe in God are healthier and more optimistic and hopeful than people who don't. Prayer has many benefits-psychological, spiritual, physical and of course most importantly it helps people grow closer to God. (Feeling near to God is a good thing as St. Teresa of Avila often said.)
Belief has always been a right fit for me. Connecting to God has never been a problem for me, for that gift I am most grateful.
I love studies which confirm what I believe and which I feel intuitively to be true. I also like to put faith and belief to the test, it's just the kind of person I am. And so I loved the article I read at Huffington Post titled, "Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don't," by Richard Schiffman. He wrote,
If you want to achieve maximum health, here are a few things that you should do: exercise regularly, eat nutritious and minimally processed foods, drop those extra pounds--and pray. That's right, regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer and staying healthy.
It also mentioned that over 85 percent of people with a major illness pray.
If you want a reality check, sit in the waiting room of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Hospital or any other cancer hospital for that matter. I did that recently and will be doing more of it, as my cousin needs chemotherapy. Family members take turns going with her. When it's my turn to go with her, I look around the waiting room and look intently at those waiting for treatment. Besides their treatment, which hopefully will be successful and restore them to health, they need the comfort of prayer, the love of family and friends and they need God. What else is there when you have a serious disease? Good doctors, treatment, love, care and concern of family and friends and prayer and God. Life then becomes very simple. All the material things people desire, strive for and accumulate become meaningless.
I look at the faces of those at Sloan Kettering and I realize all the ridiculous things I worry about are useless and a waste of time. These are people with serious problems. I want to go up to them and tell them I'm sorry for their predicament and that I'll pray for them. But I don't but I do pray for them, only they don't know it, which doesn't matter.
When life gives you serious challenges, regardless of what they are, people of faith turn to God and prayer. It makes it easier, the burden lighter.
I will never understand unbelief or why people choose not to believe in God. There are so many obvious and beneficial reasons to believe in God.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Obama's Mandate-Pushing the Church Too Far?

It's all so confusing. Who do you believe? Is the latest health care mandate a threat to religious liberty? White House secretary, Jay Carney told reporters at a January 31st briefing that the administration's new health care mandate which requires healthcare plans (including religious non-profits) to cover sterilization, contraceptive services and abortion-inducing drugs, "strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventative services." About 70% of American bishops, so far, have disagreed with the White House "spin." Many are outraged including Cardinal-designate-Archbishop Dolan, who I am sure is praying about this issue, as he spends time in the Holy Land on retreat. He was quoted as saying (before he left for Israel) that, "Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience." According to the Catholic League website, Catholics as well as non-Catholics are upset about this mandate and even some agnostics and atheists are opposed to it as well.
Senator Marco Rubio introduced legislation to repeal the Obama administration's controversial mandate.
It makes me wonder. Was this a mistake? Especially in an election year. I recall that in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, President Obama said that he makes "a mistake, every hour, every day." He said he will "second guess myself constantly." Understandably, we are all learning new things everyday, no one is perfect and it does show humility to admit failure and poor judgment. Timing is also important in life and this seems like poor timing.
One journalist called it arrogance. Arrogance, pride (a deadly sin) and too much ego, sometimes interfers with decision-making. Power can also create problems in decision-making and distort level-headed thinking. That's why presidents and other people in powerful positions needs good advisors.
Time will tell, if this was a mistake to push the Church and it's leaders too far in an election year.