Faith and Family is a weekly column by Lani Bogart, in which she provides practical ways to connect the Sunday readings, especially the Gospel, to the lives of families. Lani oversees all things catechetical at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and co-leads the Committee to Serve Wives and Widows of Deacons for the Diocese of Phoenix.
Most of us like to hear of how loving God is toward us. We take comfort in knowing that His mercies are new every morning and His loving kindness has no end. We hope God will not judge us according to the wrongs we have done and will forgive us all our sins. And yet, we find this same kind of love nearly impossible to live even with those in our own house!
What kind of love does God require? God's love does not judge our brother's heart even though we may find his actions despicable. God's love forgives and gives repeatedly, expecting nothing in return. His love thinks of good things to do for his enemies and then does them.READ MORE
Have you heard preachers on television or at a non-Catholic Church preaching another Gospel? A Gospel without the cross of Christ is a false Gospel. If someone promises that their "ministry" will make you happy, healthy and wealthy remember the words of Jesus in today's gospel.
Jesus tells us that the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the hated are the blessed or happy ones. Jesus comes to suffer because we suffer. He comes to die because we die. He identifies himself with the worst among us to show us that true happiness is only found when we give ourselves away, most especially for those who don't deserve it.READ MORE
"I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips", the prophet, Jeremiah humbly prays. What about us? What does it mean to have unclean lips? When we tell lies to get what we want, when we speak badly about a family member, friend, or even a stranger, when we use hateful words as weapons to hurt someone with whom we disagree we misuse the gifts God gave us. God made our lips and gave us the gift of speech to speak words of faith, hope, and love.READ MORE
In the early days of February we have left behind the joyful celebration of Christmas, and we may even be struggling to remember the hopes and resolutions of the New Year. But we've not yet entered the penitential season of Lent. In this "in-between" time gratitude can help awaken us to the many gifts which surround us.
As a convert to the Catholic faith, I am sometimes astounded at the casual "meh" attitude some lifelong Catholics have toward the treasures of our faith. It reminds me of a child who has grown up in a castle surrounded by priceless treasures, but has no idea of their value. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one such treasure. Where else can a Christian go and hear the inestimable words, "I absolve you of your sins. . ."?READ MORE
When the sacred scriptures are read at Mass the men, the women and all the children who are old enough to understand are to listen and pay very close attention, as if God himself is speaking. This is especially true when the Gospel is read by the deacon or priest. We stand "at attention" to receive the Word of Life. When you are at Mass do you and your family listen closely to the readings? Are you training your children to pay close attention by asking them afterward what they heard from the scripture?READ MORE
"God has called us through the Gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." It's easy to miss this one sentence in the Mass for today tucked away between our sung Alleluias before the reading of the Gospel. But what a powerful claim it makes!
Glory, according to Google's online dictionary has two meanings: 1. high renown or honor won by notable achievements. 2. magnificence or great beauty.READ MORE
Have you ever wondered what it was like to see the Holy Spirit in bodily form come down and land on Jesus? Can you imagine hearing the voice from heaven? The scripture gives us very little information here. A pure white dove? Did it land and then just fly away again? What about the voice? Was it a booming loud voice or a gentle whisper? And do you think the people who witnessed this were changed by what they heard and saw that day? Our analytical brains think if we have more information, we can understand. The scriptures don't give us the facts our modern minds crave.READ MORE
Jesus makes his presence known to us in diverse ways. The poor shepherds were privileged to witness an army of angels announcing the Good News of the Savior's birth. They never forgot the praises of the angels. I sometimes wonder at how much poorer our worship would be on Sundays if the Shepherds had not told others about the angels praises, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace..."READ MORE
A few days ago I discovered that our first child was born on the Feast of the Holy Family. He was born 41 years ago, long before we knew such a celebration existed. This year I am especially excited about today's celebration of the Holy Family because our Bishop is introducing an Apostolic Letter to the families of our diocese.
The priest who received us into the Church told his parishioners each year, "it's the HOLY family, not the PERFECT family." This truth has stuck with me because there is no such thing as a perfect family and it makes us crazy if we try to create the illusion that we have achieved perfection.READ MORE
We are now oh so close to Christmas and the excitement is growing. If you have small children in your family, they show you the loving expectation with which we are meant to await our Christmas celebration.
The eager expectation with which children await gifts is the same "I can hardly wait" longing that should be growing in our hearts as we look forward to Christ's second coming. Do we hope for the salvation of the whole world, believing Jesus will come again? Or do we think our desires will never be satisfied? Elizabeth met Mary's visit with great faith and humility. Are we ready now, after four weeks of Advent, to welcome Jesus and Mary afresh into our lives with joy this Christmas? Elizabeth gives us the words we need: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"READ MORE
As Christmas approaches, let's take a moment to reflect on the life of joy that is promised to us. It's not just for heaven. We are meant to live this joy here and now! "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!" How is it possible at all times and everywhere to be full of joy? Paul lays out the steps for living in joy:
Isaiah uses poetry to describe preparations for the coming of Christ. He helps us to imagine making straight paths, filling in valleys and leveling mountains. The imagery comes from actual road work done in ancient times to prepare for the arrival of a king traveling to visit a neighboring city. He needed straight, level roads. He would not be able to go to the city if the roads were in poor condition.
Isaiah paints a picture of how we are to prepare our hearts for the coming of God. The "valleys" of failing to love as Christ teaches and the "mountains" of unforgiveness and other sins need to be made level by repentance. He wants to come to the city of our hearts. "Winding roads" that take him on detours must be "made straight." "Rough ways" full of obstacles need to be "made smooth."READ MORE
On this first Sunday of Advent when we begin preparations for celebrating Christmas - the first time Christ came to earth, the Church reminds us that we're also awaiting his soon return.
As a small child I worried about being "left behind" if Jesus came back to earth again. How could I be sure I was ready to be caught up with him in the sky? This question haunted me until years later I was initiated into the Catholic Church. When I heard the words of absolution in Confession, I knew I was in right relationship with Christ and would not be left behind. What a gift!READ MORE