"But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days says the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people." ~ Jeremiah 31:33


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Written on Our Hearts: A Patchwork Heart Blog

Patchwork Heart
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"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." ~ Matthew 28:19  The Parable of the Lost Sheep is recorded in two different Gospel accounts; Matthew (18:10-14) and Luke (15:1-7). The central story of the shepherd leaving ninety-nine and searching for only one stray is the familiar common denominator, but the contexts which surround this story in each Gospel are very different and help us to learn different aspects about caring for those who are lost. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is teaching his disciples lessons about leadership, sin and how they should approach dealing with tough issues that arise in their ministry. It is for these reasons biblical scholars often call the eighteenth chapter of Matthew the “discourse on the church” or the “ecclesiastical discourse” (The Navarre Bible Standard Edition: Saint Matthew’s Gospel, 126). Jesus begins the parable saying, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father (Matthew 18:10).” This is the second reference Jesus makes to “little ones” in Chapter 18, just a few verses earlier he says; “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the sea (Matthew 18:6).” These "little ones" are very important to Jesus and should be to us (unless you want to go on a seemingly doomed deep sea diving expedition). Who then are they? “Everyone in need of special care for whatever reason [because they are recent converts, or are not well grounded in church teaching, or are not adults yet, etc.]” are those Jesus is referencing by using this term (The Navarre Bible Standard Edition: Saint Matthew’s Gospel, 126). Jesus is making it clear that his disciples must care for and not mislead His most tender sheep; because people who are not firmly rooted in the Gospel can easily go wandering off in their quest to find the truth. It is our job to ensure that doesn't happen. How? Jesus shows us in the Gospel of Luke. St. Luke recounts the parable as part of a confrontation between the Jewish authorities and Jesus. “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain saying ‘this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them He addressed this parable (Luke 15:1-3).” The theory Jesus preaches in Matthew, he embodies in Luke. “Jesus’ actions manifest God’s Mercy; He receives sinners in order to convert them. The scribes and Pharisees who despised sinners cannot understand why Jesus acts like this; they grumble about Him, and Jesus uses the opportunity to tell them these mercy parables.” (The Navarre Bible Standard Edition: Saint Luke’s Gospel, 137).” Jesus actions in Luke echo His words from Matthew, saying to the Jewish authorities, “do not despise these little ones.” Unlike the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus is willing to reach out into the mess of sinners lives, untangle the knots and bring them home. The Good Shepherd models for the Jewish leadership and us how to bring wandering souls back to the truth. However: “The Pharisees in general were jealous of his influence over the people, a jealousy which can also beset Christians; a severity of outlook which does not accept that, no matter how great the sins may have been, a sinner can change and become a saint; a blindness which prevents a person from recognizing and rejoicing over the good done by others (The Navarre Bible Standard Edition: Saint Luke’s Gospel, 137).” When we are consumed by self-righteousness, we abandon our search for the lost and even become resentful of those who are humbly working as agents of God’s mercy. It is to illuminate this error of self-righteousness in the hearts of the proud that Christ asks the question, “what man among you having a hundred sheep would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it (Luke 15:5)?” Only those who are true disciples will answer, ‘I would’. As Jesus says: “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd, whose sheep are not His own, sees a wolf coming and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:12-15).” Jesus knows us, equips us and expects us to be His shepherds, devoid of sanctimoniousness, helping “little ones” find their way back home to Him.
Patchwork Heart
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I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. ~ John 16:33 As human beings we are constantly competing to win or gain something. Whether it is a game, a job, a new possession or relationship we are continuously attempting to reach a goal whatever it may be for us at any particular moment in our lives. Competition is good, having goals are important but losing often strengthens our will and our resolve. Some losses are greater than others, watching your favorite sports team lose year-after-year pales in comparison to losing your job. Some loss we have no control over and other kinds of loss we had influence in the circumstances and situations that contributed to the outcome. Either way, losing doesn’t feel very good, because we have been created to be champions and conquerors, following in the footsteps of Jesus. Christ promises us in the Book of Revelation, “I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on His throne (Rev. 3:21 NABRE). God hardwired our nature to share in His glory but because of the fall, we, members of the Church Militant, are born onto a battlefield and experience both victory and defeat throughout our lives. The pain of falling leaves scars that remind us of our mistakes and helps us not to repeat the same failures. Not all losses are trivial, we lose things of Super Bowl sized importance like a career path or advancement, friends betray our trust or a spouse abandons their vow of marriage. While losses of this magnitude may shake our lives to the core, if we are still, listen and trust God He will slowly bind the wounds and place His wisdom in our hearts; defeat teaches us lessons victory cannot. A Franciscan Religious Brother told me, “only when your heart has stopped beating, has God chosen where you will spend eternity.” So, no matter how lopsided the score of the game of life is against you currently - if your heart is beating you have a chance to turn it around and be victorious. The key to victory is tenacity. Satan wants you to shrink instead of standing back up after you have lost. That is the one and only way he can win. Satan got exactly what he wanted in the crucifixion, Jesus' death. The resurrection however was the devil’s worst nightmare because Jesus destroyed death, his most coveted possession. The crucifix reminds us Jesus willingly subjected himself to death for our salvation, and that as we His followers take up our cross, will experience pain and suffer losses we never considered or conceived (cf Matthew 16:24). It is precisely at the that moment of defeat you are faced with a challenge, do you ask the Father to roll away the stone keeping you in the grave and walk out? Or do just accept defeat and surrender to death? We all lose. Will you rise?
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Then Mordecai said: ‘This is the Work of God. I recall the dream I had about these very things and not a single detail has been unfulfilled.” ~ EST F:1 Over this past month, July 2017, I have witnessed many different aspects of the God interacting with His people. As a Youth Minister, I walked with a group of teenagers on a six-day mission trip to Kewaskum, WI and served the elderly suffering from loneliness in a nursing home, spending time and listening to the wisdom of their life experiences; all their joys and sufferings. In our work with the elderly I felt like I was on a spiritual seesaw. As we alleviated the pain of loneliness, we lifted them up, and they in turn lifted us up by pouring out a treasure of wisdom into our souls. It was a profound Christ-centered exchange for all of us involved. Returning from the mission I had the opportunity to travel Pittsburgh for the Golden Jubilee Anniversary Celebration of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Thousands of Catholics, and even some non-Catholics from all over came together for a powerful conference. We prayed and sang in every tongue on earth and in heaven dancing in joy of the Holy Spirit. He once again renewed the faith of all in attendance and poured out grace in overflowing rivers of living water. There were many great signs and wonders worked throughout the weekend, healings both physical and spiritual but the most profound moment for me was my pilgrimage to the Ark and the Dove just outside of Pittsburgh. The Ark and the Dove Retreat Center is the site where in the winter of 1967, approximately twenty-five students from Duquesne University first experienced the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” in a tiny chapel. The powerful outpouring ignited a worldwide movement recognized by the Church as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. As I prayed in the chapel where the Holy Spirit descended during the Duquesne Weekend, there was a profound peace that stilled my soul. I gained a new strength and confidence, as the Spirit-soaked room saturated my soul. My final adventure this month was leading a group of teens to the Steubenville Youth Conference in St. Paul, MN. The power of the Holy Spirit was unleashed on 1900 young people as they prayed with heartfelt devotion was inspiring and uplifting. I watched as lives of young people were transformed and a fresh hope filled my heart knowing that the Catholic Church has a bright future filled with zeal. As I look back on the different ways I’ve encountered Christ and His Church this month, I’ve gained wisdom through serving the needs of others, experienced heavenly joy and helped build up the future of the Catholic Church.These action packed weeks have made a deep and profound impact on my spirituality, helped me become a better man and minister in the Church, and filled me with an immense sense of gratitude to God for these many summer signs and wonders He has worked in my life.

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