Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Keep Your Eyes On The Lord


Lately I have been finding it very depressing going onto Catholic websites and blogs.  It all seems to be just bad news and doom and gloom.  Many seem to think that the Catholic Church is on the brink of implosion and self destruction.  Many moan and carry on about our wayward bishops, priests and religious.  It seems everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else.  The authors of the blogs and websites think they are just fine and everyone else is on the path to hell.

And there certainly are tremendous problems within and outside of the Church.  But this is hardly new.  The Church and the world are populated by sinners, and we tend to have a lot of problems.  It's like looking at a hospital and saying, "Look at all those sick people."

I agree that times are much worse than they have been for several generations.  It wasn't that long ago when it was fairly easy to be a Christian in our society because, at least on the surface, our culture was based on Christian morality.  But that is no longer true for myriad reasons, and the immorality and the loss of the sense of right and wrong has invaded large swaths of the Church.  Just as has happened many times in our 2000 year history, we are at a crisis point for many in the Church, and it is important that we pray and offer up reparations for this situation.

But should we be focusing all our energy and time on looking at all the problems in the Church and in each other?  We are most definitely in the midst of a storm.  But should our focus be on the storm, or should we be looking elsewhere?

One of the greatest Catholics of the 20th Century, and maybe any century, was Venerable Fulton Sheen. He was truly the greatest evangelist of our time, much beloved by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His talks and writings are widely available all over the Internet, and I would highly suggest that you avail yourself of these materials.

Screen shot of the Fulton Sheen app
One of these Fulton Sheen resources that I would recommend without hesitation is  an absolutely wonderful app that is available on the Iphone/Ipod/Ipad and also on Android devices. It is called the Fulton Sheen Audio Library. Click here to view information about this app. Click here for the link to their website.  From their own description:
Almost 300 audio talks from the great 20th Century Catholic preacher and writer, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Includes many of his retreat talks to priests and laymen, his St. T  herese of Lisieux series, and his incredible 50-part catechism series that outlines all the basic teachings of the Catholic Church, as well as many individual talks on so many important topics relevant today. Grow in your own spiritual life and get to know the life and teachings of Jesus Christ from the man loved and admired by people of all Christian and non-Christian religions for his commanding and sincere preaching via radio and television. He died in 1979, and he is in the process of becoming a canonized saint of the Catholic Church. This is an amazing collection you don't want to be without.
This is not hyperbole. This truly is an amazing collection of talks by Venerable Fulton Sheen that, if listened to in a right and prayerful attitude, is guaranteed to strengthen your faith and bring you closer to your Creator. You can download the app for free which gives you a few sample talks, and for about $8 more you can get all of the almost 300 talks. One is better than the other. I cannot recommend this app highly enough. This developer also has several other apps with some great Catholic speakers on them that you can check out as well. Forget the game apps and get this one.

I recently listened to one of the series of talks from this App which was a retreat given by Bishop Sheen. The last talk in this series is entitled, "Peter's Fall & Rise." Bishop Sheen explains how we are all just like St. Peter, our first Pope, in his foibles and weaknesses and that there is much to learn from Peter. At one point Bishop Sheen talks about the time that Christ came out to the disciples on the water. The apostles were in a boat and Our Lord walked across the water towards them. Impetuous Peter got out of the boat and started, amazingly, to walk on the water towards our Lord. From Bishop Sheen:
[Our Lord, to escape the crowds who wanted to make Him king, had gone up to the mountain top to pray. Our Lord did not want the apostles contaminated by those who wanted to make Christ a political king, so he sent the apostles across the lake]. A storm came up. He sees them from the mountain top and the storm is so great . . . that even these fisherman were frightened. And they see someone coming to them on the water. And they think it is a ghost. Despite all the time they have been with our Lord, they still do not know him. They were not absolutely convinced that He was God and they had not given themselves totally to him. Finally, the Lord said, "It is I." . . . Here we get the impulsiveness of Peter. Is it impulsiveness really? He said, "Lord, bid me come to you upon the waters." He so loved the Lord and he had gone through this storm that he wanted to be with Him immediately. So, "Bid me come to you." . . . The Lord said, "Come." Let us not forget that. The Lord said, "Come." . . . And he walked on the water. Then he began to sink. Why did Peter sink? He began to drown, and Peter could swim because we know that he swam 400 yards on the Sunday after Easter. But he began to drown. Why? Have you ever read the gospels closely enough to know the answer? He took his eyes off Jesus. He took account of the winds. In other words, he began to say, "Oh, have you read that latest survey about the priests? Oh, did you see that article about the Church? Oh, did you hear what is happening to the nuns? Oh, did you read those statistics?" He took account of all the currents of popular opinion and he began to sink. He took his eyes off the Lord.

Peter and the apostles were in the midst of a very real and dangerous storm that was threatening to drown them all.  When Peter got out of the boat and started walking on water towards Jesus, he was doing something that is normally physically impossible.  But if Peter and the other Apostles had kept their eyes, mind and heart on the Lord, the storm would have had no effect on them whatsoever.  Peter would have walked on the water as if he was walking on solid granite.  They were walking by sight, not by faith, and the result was they were fearful and in danger of drowning.


We know that we live in a post-Christian society.  But do we have to focus in on every degenerate, despicable and evil thing that is happening both in and out of the church?  Far too often it isn't even the inherently evil and sinful events around us but just things that we don't personally like that consume people's attention.  Recently a lot of people got themselves all riled up over the bishops doing a dance at World Youth Day in Rio.  Here are some comments from the forum at fisheaters.com, a traditional Catholic forum:
The most nauseating spectacle so far out of WYD 2013. All of the "excellencies" dancing around like pre-schoolers... there are no words 
All the WYD nonsense I am seeing in the news has been really getting to me!  
I wonder if Cardinal Dolan was the lead dancer. Laughing, as he does,  and getting into the "spirit of Vatican 2" for the whole world to see. Hey we can be just like the Pentecostals.  
The CHURCH of Vac II not only helps you lose your faith and also entertains..the dumb down catholic who think this is what going to church is entertainment. Because their n.o .mass is boring. They the Bishops can  not  help themself to make themself  look foolish.
There actually was one poster who felt this was much ado about nothing, but still doesn't quite get it:
I saw this as well, and while I do find it annoying and frustrating, I am not going to get all up in arms about it either.  It didn't happen in the context of the Mass to my knowledge, or the Divine Office, so there are no teachings or rubrics governing such things.  We might argue about its prudence, but outside of Liturgical Prayer, its hard to argue much more than that.  There are plenty of things to get up in arms about that are much bigger deals than this from my perspective.  Others are, of course, free to disagree. 
Even Michael Voris, who never misses a chance to bash bishops and priests, said there was nothing sinful or even wrong about what the bishops did.  He, like many others, thought it looked foolish and sent a wrong message to the world.  So why are we dwelling on it?  Why don't we hear about the good things that happened at Worth Youth Day?  What about the millions who had a truly spiritual experience and developed a greater love for God and the Church?

Like Peter and the other apostles, we focus on the storm, and like Peter, we find ourselves drowning. What did Jesus say to Peter when he started to fall into the water? "You of little faith. Why did you doubt?" We, as Catholics, are given an ironclad promise by our Lord that He will never leave us. We know that He is with us always in the Blessed Sacrament. We know that our Blessed Mother, Mary, is constantly before her Son's throne pleading and interceding on our part. We have communion with the angels and saints who pray for us constantly, and even the poor souls in Purgatory. We know that Satan will have his hour, but that his time is limited and it will come to an end. We have the Sacraments of the church so that we always have access to the Grace of God and His great mercy and forgiveness. The Lord is as much with us as He was with the apostles during the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  


In another message entitled "Hour of Testing" from the same retreat, Bishop Sheen talked about the troubling times that we live in and the fact that our world has become so anti-Christian.  He says that the time we live in (and this was in the 1970's) the majority opinion, even in the Church, is often wrong and like Gideon in the Bible, God's army on this earth is very small.  From Bishop Sheen:
These days, therefore, our ranks are being thinned. God does not expressly say to the Church tell your cowards to leave. They just leave. God doesn't make some kind of papal decision to say that well, the majority opinion is wrong, those that get the ear of the press. No, but he allows things to work out this particular way. And then will come, not in our time but not far after our time and perhaps in the time of some, then will come the battles and the testing. Our Lord said Satan would sift you as wheat, and we're being sifted as wheat. So we can all thank God that we live in these days. Really, it's beautiful. Now we can say aye or nay. And we can bear up under assaults and criticisms and ridicule because this is the lot of the Christian in the days of the spirit of the world.
How are we bearing up under the assaults of the spirit of the world? Are we just moaning and complaining and saying how terrible it all is? Or are we, as Bishop Sheen said, thanking God for allowing us to live in this time when we can truly shine as servants of God? Are we keeping our eyes on the Lord, or are we concentrating on the storms around us?

Read some of the messages given to us in Holy Scripture:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28-31)
God has said, never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.  (Heb. 13:5)
For those of us who are concentrating on the storm and not on the Lord, remember, we are to walk by faith, not by sight.  

Psalm 3:
Lord, look how my enemies have increased!
    Many are attacking me.
 
Many are saying about me,
    “Even with God on his side,
        he won’t be victorious.” Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield that surrounds me.
    You are my glory.
    You hold my head high.

I call aloud to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah
 
I lie down and sleep.
    I wake up again because the Lord continues to support me.
 
I am not afraid of the tens of thousands
    who have taken positions against me on all sides.

Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
    You have slapped all my enemies in the face.
    You have smashed the teeth of wicked people.
 
        May your blessing rest on your people. Selah

Credit:  thedanceoflifewithjenna.blogspot.com 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks. I was thinking the exact same thing this morning; all the trouble in the world, the lapse of this country... In my mind I saw him on a rock in a storm, where I could never hold on myself, but if I just kept in my mind the fact that He Is there, I could hold on, and my family would be fine too.
    Thanks...

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  2. I love this post, so sublime, so beautiful. Your writing skills are impeccable! So many today think that we in the Church are being tossed around by turbulent forces, we may be, but, just like Peter, if we take our eyes off of Christ then we begin to sink like Peter 'the rock.' As Christ said, 'the gates of hell will never prevail against our Church.' In my humble opinion, we must constantly remind ourselves of that fact, and the fact that it is Christ's Church. Thank you for your wonderful work for Christ.

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