Days of Grace

posted by: zealoussheep

We are blessed to be immersed in immense days of grace. First, we have been invited to peer into the wounded side of Our Savior and journey the path of the soldier’s lance and so find that most beautiful Heart pierced for love of us.17c10aad06c2615dcc8551edd2d8e492

Then we behold Our Mother, whose Immaculate Heart is a mirror of all the virtues. A heart full of light and beauty reflecting the radiance of the Sacred Heart.
Doves and the Heart of Mary

Finally, rounding out a tremendous trifecta, we honor the Princes of Apostles, Peter and Paul, among the foremost witnesses of the Faith.
peter_paul_pic

Exactly four years ago today, I boarded a plane to depart the Eternal City and return to America. There I spent a year face to face with these princes, confronted concretely with the places and circumstances of their deaths, and with their passion, zeal, and sacrifice. Standing in the places where they shed their blood, I recognized anew the voice of my Savior and theirs calling me to the same: Lay down your life. For love of ME give it all.

Martyrdom, the shedding of one’s blood, is a literal manifestation of giving it all. We may not all be called to die a martyr’s death, but we are called to lay all that we have, are, and will be, before the throne of our King and God and give him all, each and every day.

How are you living? Are you ready to shed your blood? Every Christian disciple should aspire to be brave enough to do so. St. John Paul II said,

If something is not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for.

Is our faith something worth dying for, really living for? Is our living a shining witness of readiness to give it all? Of having interiorly surrendered everything, fully uniting our will to HIS?

May these days of grace be an occasion to gaze upon that burning, pierced, enflamed Sacred Heart. To gaze upon that pure, holy, fragrant, sword skewered Immaculate Heart. To look into those fierce, courageous eyes of those martyred princes. May these days fortify you. May they call you on to greatness. May they inspire you to follow our Savior, our Mother and Saints Peter and Paul in generously pouring out your life. May your offering yield for the world an increasingly confident, joyful, courageous Catholic witness that begins right now in your heart enflamed by love.

 

 

 

You Make Me Brave (great worship music)

posted by: EvangelicalDisciple

I know lots of people who make declarations about their situation, and those same people often times get what they declare. A lot of times, those people are pessimists and they make declarations about how bad things are going to be.
NOTE WELL: I am not going to now make a declaration that we can create our future, like Heath Ledger did back in probably the best film of 1991, A Knight’s Tale: “He changed his stars after all.” Click here to see the actual tear jerker clip (yep, it brought tears to mine eyes!)

NOTE WELL: I am going to now make a declaration that God wants to strengthen us by His Word, and He wants to show us favor, and to make us increase!
What if, instead of standing in front of a mirror, talking to yourself like what’s-his-name in the film Cool Runnings, “I see pride; I see power; I see a bad news mother, who won’t take no crap off nobody” (edited), why don’t you stand in front of Heaven and make your declaration before the King.

INSTEAD OF STANDING IN FRONT OF A MIRROR,
TALKING TO YOURSELF,

WHY DON’T YOU STAND IN FRONT OF HEAVEN
AND MAKE YOUR DECLARATION BEFORE THE KING.


This is what Amanda Cook is inviting us to in this very excellent hymn of praise to God: YOU MAKE ME BRAVE. Over and over again, starting at 2:59, and continuing for minutes, we can declare over the enemy, over the land, over ourselves, unto God, that God is the One who makes us brave. YES!

God, You make me brave.  You make me brave.  You make me brave.  You make me brave.  You make me brave.  You make me brave.  You make me brave.

Welcome, ZealousSheep (New Contributor) … Awesome

Posted by: EvangelicalDisciple

“Your blog is too manly.”
“Your beards are overwhelming.”

And the critiques go on and on.  So, SimplyBearded and I decided to silence the masses.

WELCOME, ZEALOUSSHEEP!!!

Elizabeth Rzepka, the feminine genius incarnate.  With a million loves, like: Alpaca (some sort of llama?), cheese, little critters (not spiders)… her one true love is to be a sheep, because she is IN LOVE with the GOOD SHEPHERD.  She is a zealous sheep, and so she is ZEALOUSSHEEP.

Be ready to see lots of colors and descriptive words and exclamation marks and pictures of animals and the Heart of Jesus everywhere…  it’s gonna be great!

WELCOME!!!

 

 

Examining the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 

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Behold the Heart of your Savior!

Engulfed in the burning fire of love. Not just any love, no, but a mature, fully committed, and unending love. This flame of love drove Him in the quest to save His beloved. This flame of love drove Him to die on the cross so that we may live. What a beautiful love!

Wrapped by the crown of thorns, which He, the King of Heaven, wore as His crown on earth. This crown of thorns made Him suffer immense pain, yet the flame of love pressed Him to endure it all for us. His suffering was transformed into great and powerful prayer: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

The wound below His crown, still bleeding His most sacred blood. Always bleeding His most sacred blood. It may seem as though it ought to run dry, but it will always bleed for us as a fountain of love and mercy. This bleeding Heart constantly pours out life into the Body of Christ, the Church.

The cross in the midst of the flame, as though this Heart knows how much it must sacrifice if the flame of love is to survive. The flame only grows when given the opportunity to embrace the wood of the cross, which ultimately means sacrificing the very life of the Heart. Yet the complete sacrifice only allows the Heart to reveal it’s true strength and power, for It lives even after Its death.

Finally, this entire Heart is surrounded by the Divine Light itself, revealing the supreme Love of God, who sent His only Son – the second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ – to dwell among men and die for the sake of their salvation. This Divine Light blocks out all darkness and does not allow sin to penetrate the Heart, but instead allows the Heart to spread the Light to all the corners of the world, constantly revealing the great love and mercy of God.

This Heart allows us to become children of God. This Heart allows us life in Heaven after death. Let’s all pray that our hearts may become more like this Heart everyday.

Sacre-CoeurHeart of Jesus, celestial flame, divine fire, destroy in us all that is not pure, and grant that our affections may be entirely yours. May we live only for love and die of love.

Following the Example of John the Baptist

 

john-the-baptist

Next time you’re walking around town, find a stranger and ask him/her about Jesus. Ask which of Jesus’ teachings is most important for our day and culture. Almost certainly you’ll hear something resembling the beginning of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

Yes, this passage (and others like it in the other Gospels) is almost certainly the most popular passage in all of Scripture in today’s culture. In fact, it’s basically become something of a defense mechanism for anyone whose actions have been questioned. How often do we hear the phrase, “Don’t judge me!” shouted anytime someone is accused of anything that might appear to be lacking in virtue? Of course, this verse is rich in wisdom from the Lord – otherwise he wouldn’t have said it – and we ought to follow its meaning. However, a good way to arrive at the true meaning of a Bible passage is to look at it in the context of the entire Book it’s in, or even in the context of the entire Bible. In this case, let’s look only at the surrounding passages in Matthew’s Gospel.

For starters, only ten verses after this passage, Jesus tells the same disciples: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Seven verses after that: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.”

In the preceding verses Jesus tells his disciples, “When you pray […] When you fast […] When you give alms […]” (i.e. ‘Actually DO these things – they’re not optional.’) and, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” (If you want to read the entire Gospel of Matthew, click here to get the full picture.)

What’s the point of all of this? Many people read Jesus’ words, “Don’t judge,” and interpret that to mean, “Focus only on yourself. Let other people do what they want and we’ll figure it all out with them when they die.” This is not the Gospel! Let’s take a look at John the Baptist, about whom Jesus had this to say: “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!”

Go to your Bible and find the places where John the Baptist enters the scene. Usually they are towards the beginning of the Gospels, but he also shows up in the middle of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (here’s a list). Here’s the typical message from John the Baptist: ‘Repent of your sins! The Messiah is coming! Prepare for him!’ The modern reader might suggest he wasn’t following the command to refrain from judging. He certainly wasn’t focusing only on himself! It seems more like he was focusing on preparing people to meet their Lord by way of telling them to rid themselves of their sinful ways. It turns out that he wasn’t judging them, but simply desiring their salvation! 

Another scene: Mark 6:17-20

Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

Had John confronted someone today with those same words, “Don’t judge me!” would have been shouted in return. In a way, that’s what happened in this scene, though it’s clear Herod knew John was right. John, for his part, is sticking to his mantra: ‘You need to stop sinning and get ready for the Messiah!’ He wants them to be free from their sinful actions when they meet Jesus. This, too, should be our goal in our relationships with others, both to be free from our sinful actions and to help others to freedom from their sinful actions. Of course, remember that Jesus is the final judge of each person, but he has given us commands concerning how to live life well. If we find a person who is not living life well, then we can imitate John the Baptist and help redirect our neighbor’s actions. Read what a fellow by the name of John Henry Newman had to say about John the Baptist:

…it is difficult to rebuke well, that is, at the right time, in a right spirit, and a right manner. The holy Baptist rebuked Herod without making him angry; therefore he must have rebuked him with gravity, temper, sincerity, and an evident good-will towards him. On the other hand, he spoke so firmly, sharply, and faithfully, that his rebuke cost him his life.

We who now live have not that same extreme duty put upon us which Saint John was laden; yet every one of us has a share in his office, inasmuch as we are all bound to rebuke vice boldly when we have fit opportunities for so doing…

Take these words to heart. Follow the example of the holy Baptist. Boldly love people into Heaven.

A Simple Way to Start, Continue, and End Each Day

Silent Prayer

(This idea is not original – it came from Cardinal Desire-Joseph Mercier, who lived in the late 19th century into the early 20th century.)

Each day – starting when you rise from your slumber – take a few minutes of silence. Wait to check the phone (maybe even turn it off). Don’t check the email just yet. Let the coffee finish brewing. Sit up, close your eyes, and enter the sanctuary of your baptized soul. There realize that God himself dwells. Spend time with him. Rest with him. Pray this prayer slowly:

Oh, Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strengthen, and console me. Tell me what I ought to do, and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive to everything that you ask of me, and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Only show me what is your will.

This can be done at various points throughout the day. Simply stop whatever is going on, sit still for three, four, five minutes, and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within you. Perhaps you will “hear” some promptings, or perhaps you won’t hear anything at all. Results matter little and tend to develop over longer periods of time. What matters most is that we take time to worship God and invite him into the chaos of our lives. Doing this will change everything because it will remind us that the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is with us always, just as Jesus promised (Mt. 28:20b).

What a gift it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ!

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