Welcome to Couples for Christ - Foundation for Family and Life East Contra Costa
Friday, February 29, 2008
Mark 11:26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Today's word is not Hebrew or Greek, it's Eskimo! The word is issumagijoujunnainermik. When missionaries first shared the gospel with the Eskimos, they couldn't find any word in the Eskimo language for forgiveness. So, they took a number of Eskimo words and joined them to form a new word -- Issu-magi-jou-jun-nai-ner-mik -- and it became the Eskimo word for forgiveness. The individual words are "Not-being-able-to-think-about-it-anymore."
Too often we remember the hurt, replaying it over and over again in our minds. Forgiveness is not something we do just once. It is something we must reaffirm every day. Whenever a hurtful memory comes up, remember the word Issu-magi-jou-jun-nai-ner-mik, and say, "I can't think about it anymore, it's in God's hands."
CFC, rather than replay the hurt you may have acquired, replay God's mercy, His grace, His love for us (and them) -- when He freely gave His life. That will enable us to forget it and move forward.
Your family in the Lord with much agape love,
George, Rivka, Elianna & Obadiah
Currently in Charleston, S.C.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Yours sincerely, Arnold. Age 8, Nashville.
Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson.
Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix
Dear Pastor, My father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something.
Robert Anderson, age 11
Dear Pastor, I'm sorry I can't leave more money in the plate, but my father didn't give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance?
Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven
Dear Pastor, My mother is very religious. She goes to play bingo at church every week even if she has a cold.
Yours truly, Annette. Age 9, Albany
Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won't be there.
Stephen. Age 8, Chicago
Dear Pastor, I think a lot more people would come to your church if you moved it to Disneyland.
Loreen. Age 9. Tacoma
Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon where you said that good health is more important than money but I still want a raise in my allowance.
Sincerely, Eleanor. Age 12, Sarasota
Dear Pastor, Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow.
Laurie. Age 10, New York City
Dear Pastor, I hope to go to heaven some day but later than sooner.
Love, Ellen, age 9. Athens
Dear Pastor, Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God's help or a new pitcher. Thank you.
Alexander. Age 10, Raleigh
Dear Pastor, My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don't think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house.
Joshua. Age 10, South Pasadena
Dear Pastor, Who does God pray to? Is there a God for God?
Sincerely, Christopher. Age 9, Titusville
Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.
Carla. Age 10, Salina
Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished.
Ralph, Age 11, Akron
Dear Pastor, How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers?
Sincerely, Marie. Age 9, Lewiston
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Acts 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
As churches across the world prepare for their own "Passion" plays, I thought I'd share the history of how it originated.
In the early 1600's, a small village in Germany called Oberammergau, desperately cried out to God to save them from the bubonic plague which was devastating Europe at the time. The people of this town vowed to perform a play where every villager, both rich and poor, would participate. They would present the story of Messiah to the world every ten years forevermore, if the Lord would remove the plague from their people.
Even as thousands were dying in nearby villages, Oberammergau was untouched by this terrible disease. The people of Oberammergau were completely spared. This was the beginning of a tradition of which you've surely heard -- the renowned "Passion play".
CFC, no matter what is happening around us --wars, plagues, sin running rampant -- if we are whole heartily committed to serving God, we will escape just as the tiny village of Oberammergau!
Your family in the Lord with much agape love,
George, Rivka, Elianna & Obadiah
Currently in Wilmington, N.C. travelling and ministering in Charleston, S.C.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Revelation 1:5-6 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
One day a passerby saw a homeless man on the roadside. He stopped for a moment to hand him some loose change and casually said "God bless you, my friend".
"I thank God," said the homeless man, "I am never unhappy."
"What do you mean?" the passerby asked.
"Well," he said, "when the sun is out, I thank God -- when it rains, I thank God. When I am full, I thank God and when I am hungry, I thank God. And, since God's will is my will, and whatever pleases Him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?"
The man looked at him in astonishment and asked, "Who are you?"
"I am a King," said he.
"Where, then, is your Kingdom?" asked the man.
"In my heart." The homeless man replied.
Yes, we can have nothing, yet have it all. So often, we focus on what we have and forget who we are! The two are not related at all -- what we have (or don't have) has nothing to do with who we are! The Word says that we are kings and priests and so it is!
CFC, let's give all our concerns to the Lord and see ourselves as He does -- Kings and Priests! Thank God in every circumstance and there, we will find our victory.
Your family in the Lord with much agape love,
George, Rivka, Elianna & Baby Obi
Currently in Wilmington, N.C.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
With my newly acquired title as a journalist, I decided to strike a high
"Come in," God said to me, "so, you would like to interview Me?"
"If you have the time," I said.
He smiled and said: "My time is called eternity and is enough to do
everything; what questions do you have in mind to ask me?"
"None that are new to you. What's the one thing that surprises you most
He answered: "That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to
grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health
to make money and then lose their money to restore their health. That
by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such
neither for the present nor the future.
"That they live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had
His hands took mine and we were silent. After a long period, I said,
"May I ask you another question?"
He replied with a smile.
"As a Father, what would you ask your children to do for the new year?"
"To learn that they cannot make anyone love them. What they can do is to
let themselves be loved.
To learn that it takes years to build trust, and a few seconds to
To learn that what is most valuable is not what they have in their
lives, but who they have in their lives.
To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others. There will
be others better or worse than they are.
To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who
needs the least.
To learn that they should control their attitudes, otherwise their
attitudes will control them.
To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in
persons we love, and that it takes many years to heal them. To learn to
forgive by practising forgiveness.
To learn that there are persons that love them dearly, but simply do not
know how to show their feelings.
To learn that money can buy everything but happiness. To learn that
while at times they may be entitled to be upset, that does not give them
the right to upset those around them. To learn that great dreams do not
require great wings, but a landing gear to achieve.
To learn that true friends are scarce, he/she who has found one has
found a true treasure.
To learn that it is not always enough that they be forgiven by others,
but that they forgive themselves.
To learn that they are masters of what they keep to themselves and
slaves of what they say.
To learn that they shall reap what they plant; if they plant gossip they
will harvest intrigues, if they plant love they will harvest happiness.
To learn that true happiness is not to achieve their goals but to learn
be satisfied with what they already achieved.
To learn that happiness is a decision. They decide to be happy with
what they are and have, or die To learn that two people can look at the
same thing and see something totally different.
To learn that those who are honest with themselves without considering
the consequences go far in life.
To learn that even though they may think they have nothing to give, when
a friend cries with them, they find the strength to appease the pain.
To learn that by trying to hold on to loved ones, they very quickly push
them away; and by letting go of those they love, they will be side by
To learn that even though the word "love" has many different meanings,
it loses value when it is overstated.
To learn that they can never do something extraordinary for Me to love
I simply do.
To learn that the shortest distance they could be from Me is the
distance of a prayer."
Shared by Fr. John Cef Ledesma.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
hand and said, I've got something to tell you. She sat down and ate
quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.
Suddenly I didn't know how to open my mouth. But I had to let
her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic
She didn't seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me
softly, why? I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away
the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we
didn't talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find
out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a
satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Dew. I didn't love her
anymore. I just pitied her!
With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which
stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my
She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who
had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt
sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take
back what I had said for I loved Dew so dearly. Finally she cried loudly
in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was
actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me
for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.
The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing
something at the table. I didn't have supper but went straight to sleep
and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with
When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just
did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.
In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn't
want anything from me, but needed a month's notice before the divorce.
She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal
a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a
month's time and she didn't want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.
This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked
me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day.
She requested that everyday for the month's duration I carry her
out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was
going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her
I told Dew about my wife's divorce conditions. She laughed
loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she
has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.
My wife and I hadn't had any body contact since my divorce
intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the
first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is
holding mummy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From
the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten
meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don't
tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put
her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove
alone to the office.
On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned
on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that
I hadn't looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she
was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair
was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I
wondered what I had done to her.
On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of
intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her
life to me.
On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of
intimacy was growing again. I didn't tell Dew about this. It became
easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday
workout made me stronger.
She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a
few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my
dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so
thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.
Suddenly it hit me... she had buried so much pain and bitterness
in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.
Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it's time to carry
mum out. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an
essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer
and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I
might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms,
walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her
hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly;
it was just like our wedding day.
But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I
held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to
school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn't noticed that our life
I drove to office... jumped out of the car swiftly without
locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind...
I walked upstairs. Dew opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Dew, I
do not want the divorce anymore.
She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do
you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Dew, I
said, I won't divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she
and I didn't value the details of our lives, not because we didn't love
each other any more. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home
on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart.
Dew seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then
slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove
At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers
for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled
and wrote, I'll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.
The small details of your lives are what really matter in a
relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the
bank, blah..blah.. blah. These create an environment conducive for
happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves. So find time to be
your spouse's friend and do those little things for each other that
build intimacy. Do have a real happy marriage!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings of Peace!
Like all our brothers and sisters around the world, we were hoping and praying for a miracle that the two CFC groups might resolve their differences and be united again as one body in Christ. However, despite patiently waiting and constantly praying over the past couple of months, it has become apparent that this re-unification will not take place in the NEAR future... (Needless to say, we STILL BELIEVE it WILL happen ... in GOD's TIME though, as we say).
Thus for the greater good of the community in STOCKHOLM , we have but one choice and that is to MOVE FORWARD...
By doing so, we needed to understand and determine the CHARISM and MISSION which not only "fits" the Stockholm community's unique condition and needs, but also that which will provide the best opportunity for spiritual growth and complete Christian development for all of us moving forward. Furthermore, we also had to take into account the pastoral leadership structure to which we could attain appropriate and consistent support and guidance as a whole.
Thus, having thoroughly considered and deliberated all possible aspects that we could "humanly" come up with and then entrusting the rest to the Lord's providence and wisdom, WE, the Couples for Christ community of Stockholm Sweden, have voluntarily and unanimously decided to align ourselves with the Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL) under the Leadership of Bro. Frank Padilla, Bro and Sis Tony and Ruby Borja, Bro and Sis Larry and Babeth Castillo and Bro and Sis Rey and Cecile Rentillo.
Be that as it may, we STILL, and will ALWAYS recognize the CFC International council and the entire CFC-GK community as our beloved brothers and sisters under the ONE GLOBAL COUPLES FOR CHRIST COMMUNITY... recognized by the Vatican and unified still under our one Lord, Jesus Christ. This means that our HOMES and our HEARTS will ALWAYS be open to our fellow brethren whenever and however possible.
May the Lord help us in our decision and may HE keep us faithful to His calling always.
God bless us all!
Andre and Novie Suñaz
On Behalf of the CFC Stockholm Community
Friday, February 15, 2008
A man was being tailgated by a stressed-out woman on a busy boulevard.
Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the
thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the
light by accelerating through the intersection.
The tailgating woman hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in
she missed her chance to get through the intersection with him. As she
still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the
of a very serious police officer.
The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her
the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed,
placed in a cell.
After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the
door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting
was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, "I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind
car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of
and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do"
bumper sticker, the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper sticker and the
chrome-plated fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed you had
-- Author Unknown
Thursday, February 14, 2008
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)
Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".
Special thanks to American Greetings.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
in the Life and Mission of
Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life
CFC-FFL was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary last August 10, 2007. On October 2 we formulated our Core Values. The two events are intimately connected, and we look to our Mother Mary as the personification of and the model for living out our Core Values. Just as our Core Values function as our constant guideposts as we proceed with our life and mission, so Mary likewise is our guide. (CFC-FFL paper, Nov. 9, 2007)
Mary is at the very core of the life and mission of the Church quietly interceding and praying. Mary is also at the very heart of our community.
As we have redefined ourselves in community as being an integral part of the Church with our life and mission strictly adhering to the values, ideals and teachings of our Catholic faith, we therefore look to Mary, the Mother of the Church, as our inspiration.
More than ever, we would like to focus on Mary as our model for living out our life in community.
She serves as our model of holiness, faith, humility, obedience, total trust in God, hope, joy and discipleship. We look to Mary as our inspiration and help as she intercedes for us.
We therefore need to make an effort within ourselves, our families, our households, and our community to ensure Mary’s becoming an integral part of our lives. Our children need to experience Mary in our homes. Our community needs to put Mary in a place of honor during assemblies, conferences, ministry activities and households. We also need to always remember to call on her to intercede for our community’s needs. Our involvement in our parish should include support for Marian devotions and other related activities.
Practical Application in our Community Life
A. Personal and Family Life
1. Make Mary our model of obedience and faith by following her virtues.
2. Raise our children in appreciating and following Mary’s virtues and to look up to her as our Mother in heaven.
3. Read up on Marian books.
- “Forty Days with Mary” by Frank Padilla, “Mama Mary and Her Children” by Fr. James
Reuter, “Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary for Families” by Jerry
4. Practice devotions and offer novenas to Mary.
- Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our lady of Guadalupe, Mary Mediatrix of
All Grace, etc.
5. Make it a habit to pray the rosary regularly. Offer it for peace in our families, our community, our country and the whole world. 6. Carry a rosary in your pocket daily. 7. Encourage the practice of family prayers by praying the rosary together as a family on a regular basis. 8. Have an image of the Blessed Mother on your home’s altar.
B. Parish Life
1. Actively participate in important Marian celebrations of the parish.
2. Support the diocese/parish in their Communitarian Praying of the Rosary.
3. Actively participate in the parish during the Children’s Rosary Crusade Prayer Rally every
October with our CFC Kids for Family and Life members of the parish.
C. CFC-FFL Community Life
1. CFC-FFL and its ministries’ assemblies may be preceded by the recitation of the rosary.
2. It is encouraged that the image of Our Lady should take a prominent position in all our
3. It is encouraged that each District and/or parish-based chapter has its own image of Our Lady. Images of Our Lady are available in our FFL Shoppe.
4. The CFC-FFL prayer of consecration to Our Lady may be prayed during household meetings and assemblies.
5. Members of CFC-FFL should have teachings and formation on Mary. There should be teachings on the Church and Mary, and Mary and the Rosary. 6. All CFC-FFL members should know how to pray the Rosary. 7. Consider each household having its own image of Our Lady, which will be moved from one host to the other. The image will stay with the host family, so the family can pray the rosary together before the image daily, until it is transferred to the next host after their household meeting. This can serve as our own community’s family rosary crusade per household. 8. The community will have its yearly Marian Pilgrimage. 9. The different districts through their parishes and the CFC Kids for Family and Life should actively participate in the Children’s Rosary Crusade Rally every October. 10. The international community of CFC-FFL in coordination with their respective parishes will be active participants of the Beads for Peace every October being spearheaded by CFC-FFL Manila.
(Approved Feb 9, 2008)
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
It was around this time last year (start of Lent) when we started our journey into Lamentations. It was quite a journey. I believe we are all much better off now as a result of that journey. Today, once again as we have entered Lent, the trumpets are sounded. The prophet speaks to us as he is told to "lift up your voice like a trumpet blast" (Is 58:1).
God has an important message for us.There are many, especially in community, who "seek (God) day after day, and desire to know (His) ways" (Is 58:2a). They have a daily prayer time and are undergoing formation and growth to discipleship. They fast and they make sacrifices. And it is but natural for them to expect God's blessings. They believe they are pleasing to God. But God says there is something that is lacking. External worship must be accompanied by internal sincerity.
These same people may be just concerned about their own well-being, do injustice to others, and quarrel and fight with each other (Is 58:3b-4a). Are we not the same? Are not quite a few members of community the same? Is it any wonder then that, despite our "spirituality" and our trying to live as a people of God, we continue to incur His wrath?
What needs to happen? When is a day of fasting, when we go through the usual observances, a day that is acceptable to the Lord (Is 58:5)? True fasting, and true living in Christ, is a matter of justice (Is 58:6) and mercy (Is 58:7). This is our posture towards all, but especially to our own brethren. We are "not (to turn our) back on (our) own" (Is 58:7).
Let us examine ourselves.
* Do we speak ill against a brother or sister?
* Do we hold grudges against a brother or sister?
* Are we unable to forgive a brother or sister?
* Do we oppress or isolate a brother or sister through lack of full acceptance?
* Are we the cause of our brother or sister having to carry an onerous yoke?
* Are we quick to judge the seeming shortcomings of a brother or sister?
* Do we withhold something that rightfully belongs to a brother or sister?
How do we break out of such a mold? First, we must recognize that we ourselves are sinners (Ps 51:5). We fall short of God's expectations. And so before we can extend mercy to others, we must first of all ask for God's mercy (Ps 51:1a). Recognizing ourselves as sinners also helps us not to become judgmental or dismissive of others. We realize we may be looking at the splinter in the other's eye while missing the plank in our own.
Second, we must know what God wants of us. It is not just being in community, not just serving him, not just having a daily prayer time. It is of course all of these, but more. Something more basic. Something at our very core, and not just our veneer. What God looks for is holiness. Holiness is about purity and integrity. It is all about the disposition of our hearts. Our heart represents the very core of who we are. We can cover up our sinfulness with exterior spirituality, but God knows what is in our hearts. And so God looks for "sincerity of heart" (Ps 51:8), "a clean heart" (Ps 51:12a), "a steadfast spirit" (Ps 51:12b), "a willing spirit" (Ps 51:14b), "a broken spirit" (Ps 51:19a), "a broken, humbled heart" (Ps 51:19b).
When we have such a heart, then we will become just and merciful. To be just is to give to others what is their due as children of God. To be merciful is to be compassionate towards others, extending forbearance and the love of Jesus, becoming channels of God's grace to all. Now such is true fasting.
What is the result? This is especially relevant for us in CFC-FFL.
* "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn" (Is 58:8a). We shall rise up from the ash
heap and bask in the blessings of God, and the light of Christ will shine forth from and through
* "and your wound shall quickly be healed" (Is 58:8b). The wounds and pains of our
Lamentations will be healed.* "Your vindication shall go before you" (Is 58:8c). In God's own
time and way, we shall be vindicated, when the truth is known to all.
* "and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard" (Is 58:8d). With restoration, God's
anointing returns, and we will do our mission in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of God.
* "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer" (Is 58:9a). God will once again be responsive to
us, not forsaking us due to our veering away.
* "you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!" (Is 58:9b). God will once again be right
there in our midst. Always. Until the end of the age.
God is never outdone in generosity!
Our life in Christ now is all about restoration that leads to joy. "Restore my joy in your salvation" (Ps 51:14a).
Now restored, we continue with our work of proclaiming Christ. "I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you." (Ps 51:15). We ourselves first of all learn the lessons of Lamentations, and turn away from our infidelities, and return fully to God's plan and will for us. Then we help one another in our community to live lives of justice and mercy. Then we go forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim Christ and be God's instruments in renewing the face of the earth.
God bless us all.
"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain." (Phil 1:21)
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Pope's Lenten Message Focuses on Assisting Poor
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2008 (Zenit org). - Benedict XVI says that Lent is a perfect time for helping the poor, but urges Christians to give alms with the sole intention of seeking God's glory.
The Pope encouraged almsgiving in his Lenten message, dated Oct. 30 and released today by the Vatican. The theme of the message is "Christ Made Himself Poor for You."
The Holy Father said, "Lent […] stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters."
He recalled the specific Lenten tasks proposed by the Church -- prayer, fasting and almsgiving -- and dedicated the message to a reflection on giving alms, "a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods."
"The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: 'You cannot serve God and mammon,'" the Pontiff noted. "Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor's needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness.
"This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor, which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world. In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion, mirroring what already took place in the early Church."
Benedict XVI noted how the Gospel teaches that we are only administrators, not owners, of material goods.
They are "means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of his providence for our neighbor," he explained.
The Holy Father said the invitation to stewardship is even greater in predominantly Christian countries: "In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity."
The Pope clarified, however, that Gospel charity should be hidden.
"Everything, then, must be done for God's glory and not our own," he said. "This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God's glory and the real well-being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision.
"In today's world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: Rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave his entire self for us."
Benedict XVI considered the benefits of almsgiving for the one who gives.
He said: "In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters.
"Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction and joy. Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with his joy."
"Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow [Christ's] example," the Pope added. "In his school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love?
"The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value."
"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain." (Phil 1:21)
Hello all. Here is another timely reminder by the Holy Father about work with the poor.
(1) Our sole intent is to seek God's glory. We as Christians help the poor out of our love for God. Our helping the poor is a reflection of God's own love for the least of our brethren. Ultimately everything goes back to God. He is at the center of our work with the poor. Thus it cannot be that Christ is marginalized or set aside, due to the desire that more partners, sponsors and money can be raised. It cannot be that Christ is no longer proclaimed, for the reason that it might turn off those who are not people of faith.
(2) Gospel charity should be hidden. Jesus himself warns us to "take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; .... when you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do .... to win the praise of others. .... But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Mt 6:1-3). When what we do for the poor is the deliberate object of an intense marketing campaign to trumpet to the whole world the good we do, especially without even mentioning Christ, then we are losing our way.
(3) Avoid making yourself the center of attention. When there is a deliberate drive to solicit awards and to focus on human personalities as the prime movers of our work, rather than acknowledging that our successes are due to the work of the Holy Spirit, then we are losing our way.
(4) Look not to applause or to personal interest. When we look to the praises of men, or when we have our own personal agenda, especially a political one, then we have lost our way.
We must be careful, and so the Holy Father says "attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great."
Our work with the poor is a privilege given us by God to participate in the very mission of Jesus, to love Jesus himself in the least of our brethren, and to be able to give honor and glory to God. To set Christ aside, to no longer proclaim Christ, to use such a privilege for our own personal well-being or to serve our personal agenda, all these are a great travesty of the gospel.
"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. "But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. "Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Monday, February 4, 2008
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el'zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" (He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!") He asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, "Send us into the swine. Let us enter them." And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.