Deacon’s Corner, August 18 2019

Is God real?  So far, I’ve covered three of the five reasons from the book “The God Answers” providing some very compelling arguments that God is real:  the Universe, the Creator, and our Sense of Morality.  Reason No. 4 is “Jesus.”  There is so much to write about Reason No. 4 that I’m going to cover it in two parts.  This week:  Jesus, Part 1 – Did he really die?

Scripture, and official secular records at the time, tell us a man named Jesus from Nazareth was executed by crucifixion while Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea.  His crime was declaring himself the King of the Jews.  The Romans were masters at the art of crucifixion.  They perfected crucifixion as a brutal, humiliating, form of execution designed to discourage others from committing the same crime.  First, Jesus was flogged 39 times leaving him near death with his flesh in ribbons and internal organs exposed.  The executioners fashioned a crown from long, very sharp thorns and pressed into the top of his head.  They tied a 110-pound crossbar to his shoulders and forced him to walk through the streets of Jerusalem to the crucifixion site outside the city gates.  On the way, he was so weak that a man was forced to carry the crossbar for him.  Jesus was then nailed to a cross, stood upright, and left to die as people mocked and jeered him.  A Roman executioner declared Jesus dead after piercing his heart with a lance.  Roman executioners knew how to do their job very well.  If they didn’t, they would suffer the same fate.

Jesus’ mother and close friends watched him die.  His body was taken down and wrapped with over 100 pounds of cloth and placed in a burial chamber, a tomb, carved out of rock.  A stone weighing about two tons was rolled across the tomb opening.  Pilate ordered the tomb sealed, and stationed guards by it, to prevent anyone from stealing the body.  The seal was made from clay packs and stamped with Pilate’s official signet ring.  Anyone caught breaking this seal would have been sentenced to death.  Before the sealing the tomb, the guards would have checked to make sure the body of Jesus was in there.

Did Jesus of Nazareth really die?  He was killed by an elite Roman execution squad who were well trained in doing their job.  He was buried in accordance with Jewish custom.  The Roman governor took precautions to ensure no one disturbed his grave.  All of this happened in front of many witnesses.  Yes, we know that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, dead.

Is Jesus God?  Is God real?  More to follow next week with Reason No. 4 – Jesus, Part 2 – He is alive!

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, August 11 2019

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been writing about the five compelling reasons that God is real from the book “The God Answers.”   So far we covered two – The Universe and The Creator.  The universe did not just come into existence by chance.  It’s big and beautiful, and all of its parts work together very well.  Everywhere you look, the universe is saturated with a beauty that reflects the Creator Himself – God.  This week, Reason No. 3 – Our Sense of Morality.

Morals are the standards we set to determine right from wrong.  They define acceptable behavior in a particular situation.  Values are how well we follow our morals.  Morals are the “what” we should do.  Values are the “how” we do it.  For example, in this statement – “I’m going to tell the truth by being honest” –  telling the truth is a moral (the “what”).  Honesty is the value (the “how”).  Everyone has morals.  Not everyone has values to obey them fully.  Having moral standards that are higher than our ability to keep them points towards a Moral Standard-Giver.  The Moral Standard-Giver is someone, or something, that sets off an alarm in our head to say “don’t do that!” even though we do it anyway.

Let’s take a look at our conscience.   I can’t tell you how many times I opened my mouth and my conscience said “don’t say it!” but I said it anyway.  I know what the right thing is, even though I don’t always do it.  Where does that sense of “right” come from?  This is the third reason to believe in God:  every human being has an innate moral standard that is higher than who they are.  Where did this standard come from?  Since it is impossible to invent or create something that is greater than we are (remember Reason No.1 and 2?), there is only one reasonable answer:  there is a Moral Standard-Giver who put this standard in us.  And that Moral Standard-Giver is God.

If you want some homework, look up paragraphs 1776 and 1777 in our Catechism and see what is says about your conscience.  (Here’s a hint: my conscience is more than my inner struggle to determine right from wrong.  When I listen to my conscience, I’m talking with God.)

Our sense of morality is given to us from God.  God IS real.  What do YOU think?  Next week, Reason Number 4 – Jesus.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, August 4 2018

Is God real?  Last week, I began sharing five very compelling reasons for God’s existence from the book “The God Answers.”  The first reason, The Universe, is a powerful pointer to the existence of God.  It’s big and beautiful, and all of its parts work together very well.  Everything in it was created by something else and depends on something else.  The cause of all this must be something uncreated, eternal, and self-sufficient.  The only being that could fit such a description is God.  This week, Reason No. 2 – The Creator.

Everything created – houses, clothes, automobiles, artwork, music, you name it – tells you a lot about whoever created it.  That’s the gist of the second reason for the existence of God – every design reflects its designer.  The beauty and complexity of the universe point not only to a God, but hint at what God must be like.  Chart the path of the stars, measure the decay rate of an atom, examine the laws of physics.  Everything in the universe is well-ordered, precise and complex.  Stare up to the night sky, walk along a beach at sunset, put a snowflake under a microscope.  Everywhere you look, our world is saturated with beauty.  These are pointers not only to a Creator, but also to the nature of the Creator – ingenious, beautiful, and detailed.

A good example is the banana.  The banana fits in your hand, even better than a Pepsi can which was designed by humans to do so.  The banana is curved toward the face to make the whole eating experience easier and convenient.  It’s thoughtfully made with a non-slip surface, and comes with a time sensitive indicator on the outside to let you know it’s condition before you even open it.  Green means “keep going”, yellow means “ready to eat”, and brown means “you’re too late.”  The banana has a convenient “pull tab” on top just like the Pepsi can, and is full of bodybuilding calories which are easy for the stomach to digest.  The banana wrapper peels into four pieces and hangs perfectly over your hand.  Unlike the Pepsi can, the wrapper is bio-degradable and will, in time, enrich the soil it grew in.  If left uneaten, the banana is pre-programed to reproduce itself into a whole new fruit-bearing plant which makes it a virtually inexhaustible food-producing source.

Plato decided it was reasonable to believe in God based on “the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe.”  Sir Isaac Newton said, “When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light.  This did not happen by chance.”  In talking about God, the Bible says, “Your workmanship is marvelous!” (Psalm 139:14)  From looking at the design of the banana and the universe, there must be a God who is brilliant, creative, and thoughtful.  A Creator who loves to delight us though our wonder, curiosity, and senses!  What do YOU think?  Next week, Reason Number 3 – Our Sense of Morality.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, July 28 2019

How you know God is real?  Many people don’t think there is an answer to this question.  I’m reading a book right now called “The God Answers” which provides five very compelling and practical reasons to why God is real.  Over the next few weeks, I would like to share those reasons here in my corner with you.  So, let’s get started.  Reason Number 1 – The Universe.

The universe itself is a powerful pointer to the existence of God.  It’s big and beautiful, and all of its parts work together very well.   The very existence of the universe raises the question:  “How did it get here?”  Because, think about it.  If nothing existed, would you have to explain that?  Of course not!  But the moment something exists, it raises the question, “How did this thing get here?”

The answer is obvious.  “It came from something else.”  Animals came from their parents, plants came from seeds, houses came from a builder, and cars come from factories.   Everything comes from something else.  Everything in the universe is contingent on something that came before it.  What’s more, everything is dependent on something else for its existence.  Humans depend on food to live.  Plants depend on the sun for photosynthesis.  The sun depends on gravity to keep it from breaking apart.  So, everything in the universe seems to be dependent on something else to exist.

The universe has not always existed.   Everything in it was created by something else and depends on something else.  The cause of all this must be something uncreated and independent or, in positive terms, something that is eternal and self-sufficient.  The only being that could fit such a description is God.  Even the 16th Century French philosopher and skeptic, Voltaire – who incidentally was an outspoken critic of Christianity and the Catholic Church – said “I shall always be convinced that a watchmaker proves a watch.  In the same way, the existence of the universe proves there is a God.”

God communicates to us through the universe.   Psalm 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands! (verse 1)”  Through the Universe, God says, “I am here.  I exist.  You can tell, because I made this place.”  How objective are you about weighing the evidence for and against God?  Reason Number 1, The Universe, shows me it takes more faith to believe there is no God than to believe there is.  How about you?  Next week, Reason Number 2 – The Creator.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, July 21, 2019

St. Paul tells the Early Christians in the seaport city of Corinth, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide you a way out, so that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).”   Since Adam and Eve, we have had trials and challenges in life.  Can’t God, the all-powerful Creator of the Universe, just make them never happen in the first place?  After all, Paul just said He will provide us a way out.

God’s purpose for our daily trials is to help us understand we cannot grow spiritually if we stay within our “safe zone”.  He uses our challenges, misfortunes, struggles, persecutions, and our sufferings to provide conditions that are right for us to grow into spiritual maturity.  Not by hardening our hearts.  But, opening our hearts to God so we learn our desires are only fulfilled when we totally surrender ourselves to Him.  Not finding happiness in a culture of self-satisfaction and lustfor more, but living a virtuous life as a disciple of Jesus.

St Paul provides us with the recipe for living a virtuous life so we can persevere in our trials.  Paul says we are to pursue rightness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in everything we do.  He tells us to “compete well for the faith” and keep the commandments without stain, criticism, or blame (1 Timothy 6:11-14).  Doing so helps us avoid the trap of letting our trials become our downfall, and allows us to find “a way out” when we lose hope in the situation we are in.  By living a life of virtue and competing well for the faith, our struggles equip us to grow spiritually and become Jesus to others in a world that desperately needs Him.  When we can do that, our trials achieve God’s purposes for our good and the good of His Creation.

May we pray this week to seek the true strength that lies in self-surrendering love to find the way out of our trials. May we become true disciples of Jesus in every trial and a true source of strength to one another.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, July 14 2019

Ever have a day when nothing seems to go right?  It starts out with something small, like maybe forgetting where you put the car keys (don’t ask me how I know that).  Then, the domino effect takes over and circumstances seem so bleak that nothing even remotely positive will come out of the day.  And, the hope of tomorrow becomes the only escape from today’s overwhelmingly difficult situations.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why are we so easily defeated?  Maybe it’s not because we are too pessimistic, but rather because we try to be too optimistic.  If you are like me, I can put enormous pressure on myself to handle whatever life throws at me with composure and fortitude, rather than facing the reality that in a fallen world, nothing will ever be perfect.

We can treat our spiritual health the same way.  When we don’t set aside quiet time the morning for prayer, we immediately treat it as if it were a “cheat day” on a diet:  assuming the damage is already done and we’ll just have to get it right tomorrow.  When that happens, I think God looks at us as says “HELLO!  Today is still here!”  After all, He’s given us many examples in the Bible of His power to transform miserable days into joyous ones.  Scripture records Jesus performing dozens of miracles.  Some of the most notable were raising people from the dead, on what had to be their family’s worst day of their life.   John tells us Jesus did many other incredible things as well, too numerous to cover in his Gospel (John 21:25).  So, we can only imagine what He did to make things work out for his followers.   And He will do the same for us.  Every single day, the Holy Spirit will comfort and encourage us to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles we face.  But, only if we believe.

Unlike our human instincts, God doesn’t want us to rush through our bad days.  He wants us to use them as an opportunity to lean on Him, so we can learn that He and He alone is what we need for fulfillment.  Every bad day we have is actually a chance for us to grow more intimate with Him.  And as our trust in God develops, we are then able to help others to find comfort in Him as well.  So, the next time you’re having a bad day, don’t wish it away.  Pause and ask God to for help.  Because, it’s never too late for God to bring goodness out of a situation you are in.

As we go through the week, may we pray to our God of compassion to comfort us, so we can comfort others in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from Him.

Deacon John

Adapted from a July 7, 2019 Fox News commentary.

 

Deacon’s Corner, June 30 2019

 

Last week we talked about why we have funerals.  Funerals help us understand that death is the doorway to heaven.  They provide us a time and place to reaffirm our faith in the new life Jesus promised us where death is only the end of our earthly life, but not the end of our spiritual life and relationship with God.   Funerals give us a chance to say “goodbye” and remember the person who lived.   This week let’s take a look at planning funerals.

Although planning someone’s funeral may seem burdensome and untimely, it is really a privilege.  But, that doesn’t mean planning a funeral is easy.  Think of a funeral as a gift to the family and friends of the person who died, so they can mourn and embrace the painful feelings of grief over losing a loved one.  Although they may be deeply saddened, the planning process helps acknowledge the reality of the death.  But, when all is said and done, planning the funeral can leave a feeling of deep satisfaction that they helped plan a meaningful tribute for someone they care so much about.

Funerals have a way of getting us to wake up, to embrace the wonder of life, think about what we truly care about, and how we want to spend our precious remaining days. Planning and attending a meaningful funeral can have a lasting and positive impact on the lives of so many people. Tapping into the power of a funeral liturgy helps us discover what it means to have a relationship with God.  After all, as Christians, the happiest day of our life is when we meet God face-to-face and enjoy everlasting life in His presence.

Celebrating Christian funerals brings hope and consolation to the living.  While proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing hope in the resurrection, funerals also recall God’s mercy and our need to turn to Him in times of crisis.   By embracing funerals, we begin to recognize the spiritual bond that exists between the living and the dead, knowing we will someday be raised up and reunited in the new heaven and earth where death will be no more.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, June 23 2019

Last week, we celebrated three funerals in five days between our two parishes.   With so many funerals, have you ever wondered why we have funerals at all?  Many, if not most, people don’t even want to talk about death or dying.  Some view funerals as simply the end of the person’s life.  However, a Christian funeral celebrates the completion of a person’s life from baptism to death then going home to God.

At a funeral, we bring the body of a loved one back to the church or funeral home one last time.  Just as they were welcomed at the church door on the day of baptism, washed free from sin and clothed in the white robe of redemption, we sprinkle the casket or urn with holy water and clothe it in the white cloth (the pall) as a reminder of our baptismal garment.

A complete Catholic Christian funeral is celebrated with three liturgies:  a Vigil Service on the evening before the funeral to keep watch with the grieving family and remember the loved one who died, the Funeral Service (which can be with or without a Mass), and the Graveside Committal Service for burial of the body or cremated remains.

Many people don’t like, or want to think about, planning a funeral.   But it’s important to remember, when someone dies, we want to make all the right decisions to honor that person.   So, one of the most important gifts of planning a meaningful funeral is that it helps family and friends to focus their thoughts and feelings on something positive. The funeral encourages them to think about the person who has died and remember the ways they touched our lives.  The remembering, deciding, and reflecting that takes place in planning the funeral liturgies is an important part of the process of grief and mourning. This process of contemplation and discovery creates a memorable and moving funeral experience for all who attend.

Funerals provide us a time and place to reaffirm our faith in a new life after death.  Funerals show us that death is only the end of our earthly life, but not the end of our spiritual life and relationship with God.   By staking our lives with the hope of resurrection assured to us by Jesus, we believe that death is the doorway to heaven. Baptism celebrates the beginning of our life in Christ, funerals celebrate our earthly life and faithful relationship with God as we look toward the promise of everlasting life.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, June 16 2019

Words cannot tell you how grateful I am for all your heartfelt prayers and well wishes during my medical emergency last week.

If you haven’t heard, I spent 3 days in the ICU at Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital in Jackson.  Without warning, my left arm, side of face, and tongue went completely numb.  I was unable to talk.  Kimberly immediately recognized the symptoms as a possible stroke and called 911 for an ambulance.  The symptoms resolved themselves within 20 to 30 minutes with no lasting side effects.   After multiple CT scans, an MRI, EKGs, blood tests, and a heart ultrasound I was diagnosed with a 90% plaque blockage in my right coronary artery.   A heart catheter was inserted to clear the blockage and install a stint.

I was driving at the time and had no warning signs that anything was about to happen.  My cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight were all within the normal ranges.  My condition was diagnosed as hereditary, and I now have prescribed medications to prevent a reoccurrence.   The cardiologist said I was “as good as new” and to return to my regular routine as soon as possible.

Throughout my entire ordeal, I was both surprised and somewhat scared that this could be happening to me.  But, with my family at my side, and your overwhelming response of love, I was able to grasp the reality of my situation and prepare myself to accept whatever outcome the Lord had planned for me.  I am truly blessed to have such caring parish families, and thank God every day for the privilege of being your deacon.

Please always be attentive to whatever signals your body is sending you, and guys, always listen to your wives.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the cardiologist said I was at a very high risk for a massive heart attack within the near future.  He told me he has seen too many cases where a wife saved her husband’s life by immediately calling 911 before the husband knew what was happening.  He said “never forget, wives save lives!”

May you have a wonderful and blessed week!

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, June 9 2019

This past Saturday, June 8th, is the typical day we would have celebrated priestly ordinations.  Sadly this year we did not have any ordinations (we will have two next year).  Bishop Boyea held a special day of prayer and asked for our particular intercession for an increase in vocations.  I have included a prayer for vocations from Pope Francis that we can continue to pray for more to hear Jesus’ call.

 

LORD of the Harvest,

BLESS young people with the gift of courage to respond to your call.

Open their hearts to great ideals, to great things.

INSPIRE all of your disciples to mutual love and giving – for vocations blossom in the good soil of faithful people.

INSTILL those in religious life, parish ministries, and families with the confidence and grace to invite others to embrace the bold and noble path of a life consecrated to you.

UNITE us to Jesus through prayer and sacrament, so that we may cooperate with you in building your reign of mercy and truth, of justice and peace.

Amen.