Thursday, March 28, 2013

Galatians 5:22 – 24 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
The word ‘fruit’ used in this passage is a singular noun, not plural, which suggests that a person who lives through grace with the help of the Holy Spirit possesses all of these qualities.  In other words, as we strive to be like Christ, these attributes – love, joy, peace, forbearance, etc – should be part of our daily pattern as we strive for holiness.  Every day, all day long, we are faced with situations to which we can either react in a way that is governed by Christ or in a way that is governed by our flesh.  Many things evoke a passionate response—anger, love, or fear, to name a few—so the question then becomes: how do we wield our passions? Are they channeled through grace so that we grow in faith and so that our reaction to passion is good? Or do our passions give way to selfishness so that our reaction to the circumstances that brought about our passion is a sinful one?
Daily, we must die to ourselves—put our own desires and selfishness aside – in order to become more like Christ.  It is only by trusting in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can put aside the flesh.  Humans have only two choices as to how to live their lives: they either serve God or they serve themselves. In his Letter to the Romans (chapter 1), St. Paul points out that God has revealed himself to mankind: “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.”  In the third chapter of his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us that the righteousness of God is revealed to us through the Law and the Prophets and that his righteousness is a gift bestowed upon those who believe in Jesus Christ. We are justified freely and redeemed by the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross.  Justification is a gift of our faith, not earned by any merit of our own “so that no man can boast.”
If we cannot earn our salvation—if it is truly a gift, based not on our own good deeds but on the love and grace of God—then why work so hard to achieve Holiness?  I Peter 1:15 says: “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy because I (Christ) am holy’.” Why? We obey the Father because we love him – obedience is the highest form of worship we can offer.

                                                “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice
                                                and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

                                                                                                                                -- Hosea 6: 8

Sunday, March 10, 2013

the great commission

Today and every time I run the trail around the perimeter of campus, I pass a sign at the entrance to All Saints; it contains the great commission-- Matthew 28:19-20. Friday, we teachers had an inservice day where we went to Kingsport to learn about the Catholic Catechism (we have two such inservice days per year).  During inservices, I doodle.  Here's one of four doodles completed on Friday.

What a humbling and high calling it is for me to teach young men and young women each day. Even more humbling is the realization that chemistry isn't my calling -- sharing the gospel is my calling.  Communicating to my boys and girls that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life is the order of the day. Every day. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Ever get into a situation when you were in school, while on the job, or even with friends, where everyone begins to get sick of each other and odd little fights break out and people get restless-- people forget things or just seem to unravel at the seams, best friends aren't speaking to each other?  That's a pretty common situation in a small, private school.  I remember times like that when I was in high school, and I've seen my fair share of 'unrest' in my eight years of teaching.  Not sure what causes the unrest and the extra dose of bumps and bruises or why it suddenly seems to pop up out of nowhere, especially when a break from routine is in sight; but it does.  This week I found myself handing out more band-aids than usual, distributing pony-tail holders, lending Tide-to-Go, giving permission to turn in homework late... a couple of times, even having to help patch up broken hearts and wounded relationships, young girls in my office crying over I-honestly-don't-know.  Rough stuff!  Today I found myself turning to the following passage in Isaiah during class devotions, stop focusing on our human issues and instead look beyond ourselves ...

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his ways and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God for he will freely pardon.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out with joy and be led forth with peace
the mountains and the hills will break forth with song before you
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be the Lord's renown for an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed."
Isaiah 55: 6-13

image:, 2/8/13 photo of the day

Saturday, March 02, 2013

warning labels are everywhere!

This past Thursday at mass (I teach at a Catholic school; we go to All School Mass every other Thursday), the homily was given by Father Michael whose messages typically take a very different tone than those given by the regular speaker.  After returning from mass, I told the students in my next class that I really enjoyed the homily; their response was to that they though that Father Michael sounded "angry" and wondered "why was he so serious?"  They had a hard time understanding why the mass "wasn't very encouraging or very happy."  In fact, many of the kids had had a hard time following the message at all.

Here's the run-down of the homily:  (The Old Testament lesson was Jeremiah 17: 5-10; the responsorial Psalm was Psalm 1, and the Gospel lesson was Luke 16: 19ff.) Father Michael showed the warning labels from both a pillow and an extension cord, pointing out: Why are these warning labels needed?  Somebody died."  He used the warning labels to illustrate the significance of the story in Luke 16-- the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Both the rich man and Lazarus died; Lazarus was taken to heaven and the rich man was taken to hell. The story is a warning that we get one life to live, and if we choose NOT to serve the Lord, then our destination is hell.  Hell is a real place and people really do go there.  This is a serious matter. Father Michael was very grave (and rightly so) in his delivery of his message; hence, the discussion I had with my students one hour later...

... I recapped the story of the rich man and Lazarus and I explained why the message Father Michael delivered IS so very important and so very serious.  The kids responded well to my recap and to my explanation.  I think the reason they understood it coming from me is that they KNOW me-- they've spent the last 7 months being taught by me, asking me questions, seeing me in action, etc.  What a humbling thought-- whether or not my students (or anyone I know) are willing to hear the Word explained by me hinges on whether or not my life gives credence to the words I say. 

The kids asked if I had ever considered becoming a religion teacher, and I told them that I couldn't teach religion at the school; it's not my field of expertise and I'm not Catholic.  Then I explained that I definitely have a relationship with Jesus, so a student asked if I was a Christian. And I said "Yes, that's what I meant when I said I had a relationship with Jesus." He replied that you CAN have a relationship with Jesus but not be a Christian.  That gave me the opportunity to explain that being a Christian means being in a relationship with Jesus and having one's life shaped and molded by him. I had the chance to talk about the importance of reading Scripture and of daily prayer.  What a blessing to be able to take time away from Chemistry to talk about the Lord!

Jeremiah 17: 5-10
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve.