JESUS goes out of His way to stress the need to “watch and pray” throughout the Gospels. It was usually in the context of His return. To watch and pray is to “live by the Spirit,” says the apostle Paul.


I say then: live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh...
(Gal 6:16-17)

The moment most of us begin to live “by the flesh” is first thing in the morning. Why? Because we get up, go through the motions of the day, and think nothing of God. And so, we begin in the flesh, and usually quite grumpily. We allow ourselves to be led by the nose into the “little” sins.

But Peter says,

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pt 1:13)

When you rise in the morning, acknowledge God, implore His help, and hang tight to his hand–which is to say, continue to speak with Him throughout the day. We must actively, and willingly set our minds on the things of God, and what He asks of you in the present moment. As Paul says,

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. (Col 3:2)

I have more to say on this tomorrow, a word which has been welling up in heart my for weeks now. But if we could just focus on this one thing–living by the Spirit by willingly focusing our mind on God’s presence and His command to love–we may not need tomorrow.

It will not guarantee that you will not face temptations, troubles, or even stumble. But if you’re near Christ, you will rise that much more quickly, for He Himself will pick you up.

...take every thought captive in obedience to Christ... (2 Cor 10:5)

THERE has always been rowdy youth. But there is something behind the spirit of youth culture today which is beyond mischievous fun.

I believe it was Johann Strauss who said, if you want to know the spiritual climate of a culture, look at its music.

Today’s music has evolved into a world of rebellion, with rap music taking center stage. With lyrics that openly embrace suicide, murder, promiscuity, drugs, sexual abuse, rebellion, materialism, self-pleasure, and you-name-it, rap songs have become what I call “anti-psalms”.

I’m reminded of a documentary I did for CTV-Edmonton in 1998. Among youth, disturbing trends include a rapid increase in brutal teen violence, suicide, drug-use, and escalating STD’s. But there is a new statistic: for the first time ever, peers–no longer parents–are the main influence in teenage lives.

Many people talk about Matthew 24 and the bizarre trends in weather etc. when they speak of the “end times”. But few comment on 2 Timothy 3:1-5. It is a chilling description of this generation:

But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power.

THE FIRST MIRACLE

IT’S becoming a tradition: the first day of every concert tour is usually a dramatic one.

Today’s was spectacular.

Last summer, we had sudden electrical problems the night we were leaving. This winter, the sound and lighting equipment trailer detached from the tour bus. We found out the next day–in another city. And yesterday, two hours from home, we discovered that the bus’s water heater was kaput.

I should have expected it. In fact I did. But I was still ticked off. Grumbling, I turned the bus around, and headed to the repair shop, an hour away. We parked at a truck stop up the road.

This morning, after a short sleep, I awoke to the alarm clock… and a clear voice speaking in my heart:

    You are here for a purpose.

Continue reading

Bowl--Open Heart

IF the Eucharist is truly Jesus, why do so many of us seem unchanged after receiving Holy Communion?

Think of your heart like a bowl.

When you come to Mass with an open heart, attentive to the Word, trusting in God despite your feelings… it is like the “bowl” is turned up. When you receive the Eucharist, all the graces God pours out from the Chalice of Christ’s love, fill your heart. In turn, your heart circulates this gift of Christ’s Body and Blood through your being, and transformation continues, bit by bit.

But when one comes to Mass with a closed heart, watching the clock, daydreaming, receiving Communion like a stick of gum… it is like the “bowl” is turned upside down. God pours out graces on such a soul as well… but they roll off his heart like water off a roof.

Upside-down Bowl

Eucharist

KEEPING Christ’s commandments is how we remain in His love (John 15:10), and if we remain in Him, we “will bear good fruit” (15:5).

But Jesus also said,

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
–John 6:56

How can we fail to take advantage of this precious gift given us in the Holy Eucharist? It is Jesus Himself!

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. –6:55

If we find ourselves hungering for happiness, thirsting for peace, starving for virtues, and lacking in love, why do we not come to The Table where the “source and summit” of our needs is daily provided?

My brothers and sisters, how often have I been filled with the Holy Spirit, pacified in soul, and stirred to a burning love after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist–at a Mass, which only a handful of people attended!

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
–6:35

If the wider Church only knew what graces they would find to overcome faults, resist temptation, grow in virtue, and come to know Love itself through Holy Communion!

    Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?” –Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, (60)

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Parish, Violet, Louisiana. My concert was here–two weeks before Katrina pushed over 30 feet of water and Category 4 winds through the church. This photo was taken 7 months later…

WHEN we traveled to some of the worst areas of hurricane-damaged Louisiana recently, we saw two kinds of houses: the ones made of wood, and those of brick.

Some wooden houses had been razed to the ground. There was nothing left but a few splinters of lumber. On the other hand, the brick houses in Katrina’s path were gutted, with broken windows and damaged roofs. But the houses stood. Or rather, withstood.

How can a person possibly withstand the forces he meets in this life–the forces of death, of illness, of unemployment, of uncertainty, of hatred, of temptation?

Listen carefully,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? ...faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:14

Good works are like bricks. Faith is the mortar (what is one without the other?)

The one who builds his life with these, will testify how one can not only survive the painful forces of this life, but even bear them in peace and joy.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing... If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love... I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. –Jn 15:5, 10-11

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse.... –Mt 7:24-25

Stain Glass

The new stained glass windows depicting the Eucharistic miraculously survived.

Shell

ARE not some of the best things in life hidden?

The coolest, cleanest water is usually found deep within the ground. Gold, silver, and precious jewels are disguised by rough stone and minerals. Nebulae, birthing stars, and colorful galaxies can only be seen with telescopes. Then there is the pearl within the oyster; the milk within the coconut; the nectar within the flower.

But do we recognize the great gift that lies hidden within suffering?

When we are ill-treated by a co-worker or a store clerk, do we recognize the opportunity to die to self? When small irritations befall us, do we see this as the occasion to grow in virtue? When we feel dry and desolate, do we recognize this as the moment to exercise faith?

The spiritual life is reflected in nature. For beneath the bland, rough, and unremarkable surface of the present moment, lies the Pearl of Grace to transform us.

...although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. –Matt 11:25

Pearl

Fr. Elijah Novel

ANOTHER word which has been lingering beneath the surface of thought these past few weeks is “TOTALITARIANISM”.

Totalitarianism occurs when the state demands complete subservience of its subjects, which includes the realm of morality.

Pope Benedict has warned of this growing “dictatorship of relativism.” But so has a lesser known prophet, Michael D. O’Brien, in his series of “novels”: the Children of the Last Days. (If you are looking for powerful Catholic novels with an authentic and tested prophetic message, start here.)

This totalitarianism–though as yet unorganized in terms of formal governance–is beginning to openly express itself in localized policies, such as companies and school boards penalizing staff members who oppose homosexuality. Like a cancer, this dictatorial mentality is now moving into law as governments pass nebulous “hate crime” statutes. The next steps will be to strip the Church of official (and tax) status; then to silence the pulpit; then finally, open persecution–which may in fact be the Persecution. Continue reading

THIS week, as nature in our part of Canada unfolds in extraordinary beauty, I continue to hear the words:

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

VIGIL.

I woke up with this single word, sitting there before my spiritual eyes. It comes from the Latin vigilia, which means “awake”.

Then a strange definition appeared clearly before me:

“to watch the birth of a new era.”