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A Letter to the Downtrodden

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Dear Fellow Souls and Pilgrims on this Earthly Journey,

Hopelessness seems to cover the world. Hurricane Harvey decimated large parts of Houston. South Asia continues to experience chronic flooding. People suffer across the globe in large and small ways. Today, I wish to share my recent episodes of depression, I am not writing to complain about my situation, rather I hope to unite my suffering [albeit quite small in comparison to others] to others in great need. I want to be in communion with my fellow man. According to Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” I cannot grow as a decent human being without learning from the school of suffering.

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Depression hit me again the past few weeks. Similar to an ocean, anxiety and sadness move in waves with brief periods of respite before the next deluge of depression comes crashing onto my shore. I feel a sense of hopelessness. What is going on with my life to trigger these feelings? To be frank, I am not sure. Life appears to be going well: I have an amazing wife, family, good shelter, and a job. I had a recent change in anxiety medicine and changes are occurring rather frequently at work. Still, these concerns should be minor compared to people suffering loss due to the recent natural disasters. Depression shrinks my perspective. I see through narrower glasses.

Perhaps, you are similar to me. If you suffer from depression, whether it is severe or mild I want to unite myself to your suffering. I wish to take up my cross if only it may help widen my scope. Prying open a narrow gaze is painful. However, authentic and natural development involves growing pains. If you are downtrodden, as I am currently, share your experience. Talk with people you trust. Talk to God—it works. Prayer is effective because it is communication with Him who created the universe. Oftentimes, I need to fall unto my knees and become downtrodden before I am able to gaze upward in prayer. Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Although, I know my depression may likely come back again, I am aware of a strength to get me through the valley of tears—prayer. Prayer ultimately leads me toward an even-keeled path in my pilgrim journey on earth.

With great love and hope to alleviate your downtrodden soul,

Matt

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Resistance 

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The dictionary defines resistance as the refusal to accept or comply with something. A common fruit of resistance is inaction. Today I am struggling immensely with resistance— resistance to get up this morning, go to work, and resistance to write! My family had a busy weekend. We celebrated my son’s birthday party and we had 15 kids running around our backyard for a few hours. On top of that Sunday we celebrated our priest’s going away party at our parish and took the kids out to the municipal zoo for a few hours before wrapping up with night by watching the Lego: Batman Movie. All in all it was a jam-packed weekend.
I normally get inspiration for my daily blog topic on my morning drive to work when I listen to Christian music. Today, I do not experience any such inspiration. I felt tired, unimaginative, and slothful. Resisting  my feeling of resistance seemed futile. Thank goodness that statement is not true. I chose to act. Not with a grandiose or creative act, but with just a simple act. I choose to start writing. Sometimes that starting act is enough. We experience highs and lows in life. Today I am experiencing a low, a lull moment. My resistance to resistance is not much, but I am hopeful that it is enough to carry me to the next day—where my battle against resistance will begin anew. Tomorrow, I hope to write about how music inspires me. Hopefully, I will be inspired tomorrow during my morning drive to work listening to the radio. Hope. Because of its existence resistance is not futile!

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4 Reasons Why I Relate to Matthew 6:25-34 More than Any Other Bible Passage

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Throughout the Bible the phrase “Do not be afraid” is invoked over 300 times. In fact, the first mention of fear in the Bible is in reference to Adam and Eve hiding for fear of disobeying God for eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Fear, worry, and anxiety are feelings that are at the center of the human condition. The reality of sin—otherwise known as the separation from God—is the number one cause for humanity to fear and worry. As a broken and fallen man, I struggle with worry constantly both in large and trivial matters. Changes at my workplace leads to anxiety on my part and past suffering such as the loss of my unborn child are a couple of the various things I worry about. Even this morning, I got anxious about what topic I should write about today.

Oddly almost immediately after my worrisome thoughts are lacking a subject to write about, my eyes noticed a bible verse I have posted on my cubicle wall. Matthew 6:25-34. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit granted me the gift of knowledge and understanding and shed light on my situation. I thought, “Matt why don’t you write about the subject of worry and God’s answer?!” Here I provide four reasons why Matthew 6:25-34 is the most relatable bible passage for me personally.

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  1. My personal anxiety: For most of my life I have struggled with anxiety and stress. It got so bad in high school that I went to see a counselor for a couple of years. I got it under control better in college but a couple years ago anxiety struck again—after losing my job, suffering a miscarriage, and stresses of adjustment to a new house and city—and attacked me. I have since been on the road to recovery in large part to the sacrament of marriage [my wife’s patience is awesome!] and a discipleship group at church has helped as well. A few weeks ago, I printed off Matthew 6:25-34 and posted on my cubicle wall to remind me that God is in charge. Jesus remind me, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:25-27).”

 

  1. My Children: When I lost my job I seriously begin to doubt the providence of God and I worried about the very thing Jesus tells us not to worry about above—feeding my children. God provided me with a job that is less stressful that my previous job and allows for excellent flexible options for me to take time off in case my children get sick. Why was I anxious about food and paying the bills? Failure to trust and fear caused by sin. Once again the sacramental graces God poured out to me through my marriage helped me out!

 

  1. Timeless Message: Several passages in the bible sound anachronistic—out of place and outdated. Not so for Matthew 6:24-35. Jesus’ words relayed by the evangelist contain a message that will never age! Finding adequate shelter, food, and clothing will always be relevant for the human race despite the leaps and bounds we have made technologically. That is the genius of the Gospel to stay relevant across centuries and centuries!

 

  1. Birds of a Feather: Living in the Midwest of the United States of America, I see tons of birds in my yard and throughout the city. Robins, crows, and sparrows. Some bible versions translate birds as sparrows. Whether this is the most literal translation is debatable; however, I associate with this passage even more when the word “sparrows” are used. Jesus says, “Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:26-27).” I notice animals around my neighbor on a daily basis and they eat on a daily basis. God loves humans immensely more. Do not worry!

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Each spring a sparrow tries to build its nest in our garage. Jesus’ words always come to mind in those I notice twigs and straw hanging from the rafters left by my aviary associate. “Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” Yes…He does provide.

I Self Identify as ______________.

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A popular movement in the 21st century is people defining and identifying themselves under a multitude of appellations. Caused in large part from the rise of social media, humanity is self-reflecting more and more each day. However, as the title indicates, I am not concerned with how and who other people self-identify as. Rather I am writing as a means of self-reflection on how I have fallen prey to this idea that you need to have a certain identity in order to be deemed by society as legitimate and worthy.

Football fan, reader, runner, board gamer aficionado, writer, Catholic, husband, father, and volunteer. These are just a few of the “caps” I wear when people ask me who I am. While the first few titles are pretty superficial I have realized through prayer, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, that even my identification of being Catholic, husband, and a father to my wonderful children are still in the grand scheme of things only a hint at who I truly am–and who I am truly called to be.

I originally was going to write on another topic today. What changed my mind? It was a song on the radio whose title escapes my memory. I do remember this one verse: “You’re [God’s] love is my identity!” These five words inspired me. Just like the five wounds of Christ on the Cross which proves God’s love for us these five words of the song reminded me that God’s love is not limited to my earthly accomplishments. It does not matter how many “titles” I accumulate over the course of my years. The only thing that matters is God’s love.

That being said, I will fill in the blank of today’s title: I Self Identify as ___________, to read “I Self Identify as a child of God.” But regardless of whether I feel God’s love or not it does not change the fact that due to the grace given to me in Baptism– I will always be an adopted son of God. I pray that we may all experience God’s grace this week because our identity is only complete when we realize we are called to be children of God!

When I Stumbled Upon the Sacrament of Confession in Genesis

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I had a profound moment of truth-finding a few years ago when I was writing lesson plan for my Old Testament class on the Book of Genesis. We were discussing the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have always been curious about the angelic tussle in Genesis 22-32.

It was not until I read Genesis 33:1-11 that I realized the significance of Jacob’s bout with the unnamed angel. Let me provide a little context of the situation between the two brothers leading up to chapter 33. Esau being the elder brother was supposed to inherit the firstborn blessing from his father Isaac. However, his mother Rebecca favored the younger son Jacob. Through a bit of chicanery Jacob attained the blessing from Isaac and a rift divided the brothers for most of their lives.

The name “Jacob” actually means supplanter in reference to Genesis 27:36. This poses a dilemma for those that claim Jacob as a rightful patriarch of the Jewish faith. It is by way of Jacob’s struggle with the angel and the angel’s inability to defeat Jacob whereby a conversion takes place. In Genesis 32:28, the angel states, “You name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

The immediate next encounter with Esau a reconciliation occurs. Their exchange is as follows,

8Then Esau asked, “What did you intend with all those herds that I encountered?” Jacob answered, “It was to gain my lord’s favor.”9Esau replied, “I have plenty; my brother, you should keep what is yours.”10“No, I beg you!” said Jacob. “If you will do me the favor, accept this gift from me, since to see your face is for me like seeing the face of God—and you have received me so kindly. 11Accept the gift I have brought you. For God has been generous toward me, and I have an abundance.” Since he urged him strongly, Esau accepted (Genesis 33:8-11).

Allegorically, Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel may be viewed as a foreshadowing of the sacrament of Confession. Anytime a name change occurs in the Bible a conversion takes place. One of the more notable instances is in the Acts of the Apostles where Saul encounters Christ and becomes Paul.

I urge you to have a wrestling moment with God. Let Him work in you and change you from a “Jacob” or “Saul” and transform you to an “Israel” or “Paul”. Practical tips during this Lenten season to grow in holiness may be to read the Scriptures and go to Confession. Let us journey together as we grow in holiness.

 

 

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 2- Miracles of Elisha and Jesus

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When I taught Old and New Testament at a Catholic High School, I developed this phrase of “Catholics Must Use Bible A.D.D.” to describe how Catholics should read the scriptures. This is my second installment of what I hope to be a regular series for this blog. What I mean by Bible A.D.D. is necessary to understand the Scriptures, is that we need to read New Testament passages in light of the Old Testament and vice versa. We should not isolate Scripture passages in order to decipher their meaning. However, we need to be careful to avoid a Biblical A.D.H.D. in which we too quickly scan over passages without understanding the context of the Bible as a whole.

Today’s topic will consider how the prophet Elisha foreshadowed Jesus Christ. This will be demonstrated via biblical typology. Biblical typology is defined as follows, “when a person or an event in the Old Testament foreshadows a person or an event in the New Testament”.  I will outline three ways that Elisha foreshadows Jesus.

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  1. Miracle of Multiplication of Food: In 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha− through the grace of God− feeds 100 people by way of multiplying the bread. Jesus performs a similar miracle in John 6. Aside from the parallels in the actual miracles themselves, both Elisha and Jesus receive the bread from an unnamed individual (see 2 Kings 4:42 and John 6:9).

 

  1. Healing of Lepers: Elisha heals the soldier Naaman in 2 Kings 5:9-10 through his command to have the leper wash in the Jordan seven times. Jesus also performs the same type of healing miracle, but as with most typological reading everything the Son of God does is greater than the Old Testament type (i.e. Elisha)—here Jesus heals 10 lepers.

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  1. Preceded by a Great Prophet: Both Elisha and Jesus were heralded in by a great prophet Elijah and John the Baptist respectively. Interestingly enough, St. Luke draws a connection between these prophets when he says, “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 NASB). What is most important is that both prophets point us toward Christ.

Elisha was a holy man of God who prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. He is one of many types that foreshadow and prepare us for the Incarnation. I will continue to post examples of this typological approach to reading the Scriptures. Please also be aware that today’s writing in no way limits the connections between Jesus and Elisha to three items alone. Feel free to post any questions you have about this topic and our Christian tradition of reading Scripture through a typological lens.

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