Medjugorje Message Nov. 25, 2009

Oh boy, I have fallen very behind on my commentary on Mary’s messages at Medjugorje as well as other posts to RosaryMeds. With Thanksgiving, catching a cold, and now Christmas, I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time reading Her messages, much less meditating on them. This is doubly-bad considering Her message asks us to make more room for Jesus in our lives. This time you all receive a special “double feature” of Mary’s messages on Nov. 25 and then Her Dec. 2 message in a post in the very near future.

Our Lady’s message on Nov. 25:

Dear children! In this time of grace I call you all to renew prayer in your families. Prepare yourselves with joy for the coming of Jesus. Little children, may your hearts be pure and pleasing, so that love and warmth may flow through you into every heart that is far from His love. Little children, be my extended hands, hands of love for all those who have become lost, who have no more faith and hope. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Međugorje
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Oh boy, I have fallen very behind on my commentary on Mary’s messages at Medjugorje as well as other posts to RosaryMeds.  With Thanksgiving, catching a cold, and now Christmas,  I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time reading Her messages, much less meditating on them.  This is doubly-bad considering Her message asks us to make more room for Jesus in our lives.  This time you all receive a special “double feature” of Mary’s messages on Nov. 25 and then Her Dec. 2 message in a post in the very near future.

Our Lady’s message on Nov. 25:

Dear children! In this time of grace I call you all to renew prayer in your families. Prepare yourselves with joy for the coming of Jesus. Little children, may your hearts be pure and pleasing, so that love and warmth may flow through you into every heart that is far from His love. Little children, be my extended hands, hands of love for all those who have become lost, who have no more faith and hope. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary calls us to have a renewal of prayer.  That seems like a perfect message during this time of Advent.  I feel that we too often get so consumed with the Christmas shopping season that we forget about the Advent praying season.  Everyone looks for that perfect gift, the perfect tree, the perfect dinner, and tasty treats.  And yet, we often forget to perfect our prayer lives.  Mary reminds us that this is a time of prayer.  Don’t forget to do your Christmas shopping but also don’t neglect your Advent praying.

Mary further asks us to help those who are far from God‘s grace.  But she asks us to do more than just remember the lost souls in our prayers (although that is very helpful).  She asks us to be an example of God’s love for those who have no hope.  In other words, Mary asks us to follow up our prayers with good works and action.  She does not say that we should come down hard on those who have strayed from God’s path with words of judgment and condemnation.  Instead, she asks us to remain in a state of grace so that those who are lost will be attracted to God’s ways through our example.  Basically, Mary is reiterating the old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”  Let us remember that those who have fallen into a life of sin need more of our love,  not less of it.

May we all strive to be beacons of God’s grace so that we may guide those who are lost back to God’s love this Advent season.  May we strengthen ourselves through prayer and make room for Jesus in our lives.  Basically, may we all have the strength to live according to the spirit and meaning of Advent.

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Advent — 60 Things to Remember

This year Advent feels like it is one week longer. In the past week I’ve gone to a 50th wedding anniversary, a wedding, and had a great time with my wife’s family for Thanksgiving. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends and family at the various events. At the anniversary, my cousin and I talked about prayer and the rosary. We touched on many ideas and I can’t go into detail on all of them in this post (but I will probably bring them up in the future). However, there was one rosary prayer of her’s that I found particularly interesting that seemed relevant to Advent and preparing our souls for the Lord.

Advent wreath, Frist Advent Sunday
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Welcome to the wonderful season of Advent!  My wife and I were so happy about the start of this blessed season that we tore into our closet, took out all our Christmas supplies, and got busy decorating.  I hope that everyone feels energized and excited about the best four weeks of the year.

This year Advent feels like it is one week longer.  In the past week I’ve gone to a 50th wedding anniversary, a wedding, and had a great time with my wife’s family for Thanksgiving.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends and family at the various events.  At the anniversary, my cousin and I talked about prayer and the rosary.  We touched on many ideas and I can’t go into detail on all of them in this post (but I will probably bring them up in the future).  However, there was one rosary prayer of her’s that I found particularly interesting that seemed relevant to Advent and preparing our souls for the Lord.

The prayer is simple.  On each bead of the rosary you remember someone who needs prayers, something you are thankful for, something you are sorry for, or any other situation that you feel needs remembering.  You don’t need to say a long prayer on each bead.  Just saying someone’s name will suffice.  So that is sixty thoughts total (counting the small beads at the start and the crucifix).  The point is to just think about people and situations so that they go to the front of your mind, heart, and hopefully your actions.  I think this helps prevent us from making our prayers too general.  When we say someone’s name, we attach a face and a real soul to our prayers.  It gives our prayers, sacrifices, and offerings a real, human dimension that we sometimes miss when we just pray generally.

What do you think is more effective?  Saying, “Lord please help those in need” or, “Lord, please look over my aunt during her surgery?”  Now, God knows everyone’s needs whether we voice them our not.  But we don’t need to be specific for God’s sake, but for ours.  Suppose you really do have a family member going in for surgery.  Perhaps actually thinking and voicing his/her name will remind you to give that person a phone call or visit in the hospital.  Or maybe you can fast specifically for that person.  In other words, by thinking of specific people you focus your prayers and spiritual energy towards their specific needs.

Sounds easy?  That’s what I thought until I gave it a try.  Sure, the first twenty or thirty beads are simple enough since I can rattle off friends and family members.  However, I found it quite challenging to think of sixty people and circumstances that are in need of prayer.  That is a little disappointing considering the millions of things to be thankful for, people to pray for, and sins to feel genuine remorse for.  So that will be my challenge for this Advent — to say my sixty small prayers after praying the rosary so that I may remember the needs of those for whom I haven’t prayed enough.  In doing so, in making room for others in my prayers, I will also be making room for Jesus when Christmas arrives.

Give this a try and let me know what you think.  Have a great Advent!

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Rosary Meditation — The Fifth Joyful Mystery

Today’s rosary meditation focuses on The Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. When returning from a festival in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus was not in the caravan. They went back to Jerusalem and searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple talking to the elders. When Mary said that she and Joseph had been searching for Him in sorrow, Jesus responded, “Why did you search for me? Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49).

The twelve-year-old child Jesus in the temple ...
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Today’s rosary meditation focuses on The Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  When returning from a festival in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus was not in the caravan.  They went back to Jerusalem and searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple talking to the elders.  When Mary said that she and Joseph had been searching for Him in sorrow, Jesus responded, “Why did you search for me?  Did you not know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49).

Mary and Joseph traveled for a day before noticing that Jesus was missing from the caravan.  They assumed He was somewhere else in the party.  How far do we sometimes travel in life before we notice that Jesus is missing?  How many days do we sometimes go without praying, reflecting on our sins, or thanking God for all the blessings He gives us?  How many people do you know who are moving away from God’s graces by sinning but just assume God is “cool” with everything they are doing?  Like Mary and Joseph assuming that Jesus was still in the caravan, many times we assume that we are much closer to the Lord than we really are.  Many times we willfully go against Church teaching and sin and yet still think we are in God’s graces.  It takes a lot of strength and courage to really examine ourselves, admit when we have moved away from the way God calls us to live, and then turn back and rediscover Jesus.  We reconnect with Jesus through the sacrament of Reconciliation, prayer, reading the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Basically, we find Jesus in His “Father’s house” when we act in accordance with His Church’s teachings.

Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days before finding Him.  I think this is an important aspect of this mystery.  It shows us that sometimes, even when we commit ourselves to finding Jesus in our lives, it can still be a long and difficult journey.  We don’t always instantly feel God’s graces when we choose to reject sin and follow Jesus.  I’ve heard many times of people feeling frustrated, depressed, or angry with God because they do not feel His presence although they are constantly looking for Him through prayer, fasting, and not sinning.  But this mystery teaches us that we must not give up.  We must constantly be looking for Jesus like a parent would look for a lost child.  Mary and Joseph did not give up their search and neither should we.  The Gospel describes that Mary and Joseph searched “in sorrow.”  Our path to Jesus might not be easy and there will probably be setbacks, dead ends, relapses, and disappointment.  But this is one search that we must never call off because our very souls are at stake.

Let us meditate and pray for all of those who are moving away from God.  We should pray especially for those whose pride has blinded them to the truth of God’s Word.  We must pray for those who twist the Church’s teachings to try to justify sinful behavior.  And we ask God for the strength to always turn towards Him and return to His Father’s house when we stray.  For it doesn’t matter how far off track we are, either with a single sin or a lifetime of sinful behavior, we can always turn around and find God’s mercy.

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Souls Need Our Prayers More than Once a Year

The Catholic Church celebrated All Souls Day on November 2. On that day we prayed for the souls in Purgatory who are undergoing their final purification before entering Heaven. However, I want to remind everyone that these souls are in constant need of our prayers. Praying for them should not be something we do once a year after we come down from our Halloween sugar high. We should remember the deceased every day throughout the year in all our prayers.

A Procession in the Catacomb of Callistus
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The Catholic Church celebrated All Souls Day on November 2.  On that day we prayed for the souls in Purgatory who are undergoing their final purification before entering Heaven.  However, I want to remind everyone that these souls are in constant need of our prayers.  Praying for them should not be something we do once a year after we come down from our Halloween sugar high.  We should remember the deceased every day throughout the year in all our prayers.

The Church’s tradition is that the souls in Purgatory need our prayers to complete their purification.  They no longer have the ability to pray for themselves so they are completely dependent on God’s mercy and our prayers.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends “almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (CCC #1032).

To think of it another way, one day you will be completely dependent on others’ prayers just as the dead are dependent on your prayers today.  So don’t just pray alone for the deceased, but ask other people to pray for souls as well.  As more people pray, the more souls will enter into God’s kingdom for all eternity.  And one day, the people who you teach to remember the deceased in their prayers will be helping you enter into Heaven.

Purgatory must be a crowded place.  Our Lord dictated the following prayer to St. Gertrude the Great to release 1,000 Souls from Purgatory each time it is said.  Imagine how great it would be if we all prayed this every day so that millions of souls could enter into eternal rest?

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

PS: Sorry for the long delay between postings.  I’m trying to finish up some rosary meditations but I’m having problems finding the right message.

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Medjugorje Message — October 2, 2009

This is Mary’s message from Medjugorje on October 2, 2009. Unlike the messages on the 25th, these messages focus on those who are have drifted far from God’s love. The tone is a little harsher, almost like a mother scolding a misbehaving child. However, even if you do try to live a life free of sin, you should listen to these messages since we all have moments of sin which separate us from God’s grace.

Virgin taken from a mural in the Iglesia de Je...
Image via Wikipedia

This is Mary’s message from Medjugorje on October 2, 2009.  Unlike the messages on the 25th, these messages focus on those who have drifted far from God’s love.  The tone is a little harsher, almost like one of a mother scolding a misbehaving child.  However, even if you do try to live a life free of sin, you should listen to these messages since we all have moments of sin which separate us from God’s grace.  Furthermore, even if your soul is as clean as one fresh out of the sacrament of Confession, you probably know someone who is separated from God’s love.  You need to read them to understand the danger people are in when they sin and pray extra hard for their conversion towards our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I also want to reiterate that even if you do not believe in the events at Medjugorje this is still an important message.  Mary offers nothing different or contrary to what the Catholic Church already teaches so this message could easily have come from a priest’s Sunday homily, the commentary from a Bible study, or the teachings of a saint.

Dear Children, As I look at you, my heart seizes with pain. Where are you going my children? Have you sunk so deeply into sin that you do not know how to stop yourselves? You justify yourselves with sin and live according to it. Kneel down beneath the Cross and look at my Son. He conquered sin and died so that you, my children, may live. Permit me to help you not to die but to live with my Son forever. Thank you!

Mary’s message sounds very much like a mother who sees all the ignorant and dangerous things her children do and wonders what could possibly be going through their young minds.  She has the benefit of seeing the splendor and glory of God’s kingdom and she tells us that all the sins that we commit are not worth losing the gift of Heaven for all eternity.  She wants us to take a hard look at our lives and ask ourselves why we sin.  Sure, certain sins may make us a little happier temporarily, make our lives a little easier, make us a little more popular, or richer.  But all those small gains in this world will cost us much more in the next.  In the best case we will serve more time in Purgatory for those sins.  At worst, we lose the gift of Heaven forever.  Mary does not want any of us to miss out on what awaits us in Heaven and that is why it pains her so much to see people living only for this world without regard for the next.

We should listen to Mary and turn away from sin.  Jesus taught that all are welcome into His kingdom as long as we have the courage and strength to turn away from sin.  We should lay all our worries and weaknesses before the Cross and ask for greater faith in God’s loving mercy.

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Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing

The rosary has the ability to heal and mend what is broken in our lives. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, on Catholic Online, discusses how praying the rosary brings us inner peace by replacing all that is earthly with what is heavenly.

Blessed Virgin Mary - Mother of God
Image by Ted Abbott via Flickr

The rosary has the ability to heal and mend what is broken in our lives.  Fr. Dwight Longenecker, on Catholic Online, discusses how praying the rosary brings us inner peace by replacing all that is earthly in our life with what is heavenly.

From the article:

In a mysterious way Christ’s perfect life and the perfect love he shared with his mother, flow into the wounded places in our lives. This grace empowers us to return to the confessional with a clearer vision. It helps us to be open to the healing Christ brings through the Eucharist, and it gives us the strength to continue the daily hard work of being transformed into Christ’s image.

I really like this idea of replacing our “wounded places” with Christ’s love.  It goes hand-in-hand with many of the message from Mary at Medjugorje when she asks us to clean out all that prevents us from fully accepting God’s graces.

The article also discusses how our lives mimic the values and themes seen in each mystery of the rosary:

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae writes, “The rosary marks the rhythm of human life, bringing it into harmony with the rhythm of God’s own life.”

Pope John Paul II said that we can reflect on all the joys, sorrows, and challenges in our lives by looking at the ones shown in the mysteries of the rosary.  Over time, through rosary prayer, our ways begin to mimic Jesus’ ways revealed in those mysteries.  For example, we see Jesus taking up the cross in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.  We know that Jesus fell down repeatedly and yet He always got back up and continued on.  We can learn that we all have our “crosses” in life and at times we might fall (either by sin or just lacking faith and spiritual energy).  However, to imitate Jesus we must get up and continue working towards His kingdom.

The next time we pray the rosary, let us ask ourselves what each mystery reveals about our own lives.  Are we imitating what Jesus did in those mysteries or are we ignoring His teachings and example?

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Medjugorje Message, September 25, 2009

Mary’s message at Medjugorje calls on us to persistently work on conversion and to offer all our joys and sorrows to her Immaculate Heart so that we may find joy in her son, Jesus Christ.

St. James Church in Međugorje.
Image via Wikipedia

Mary’s September 25 message at Medjugorje:

Dear children, with joy, persistently work on your conversion.  Offer all your joys and sorrows to my Immaculate Heart that I may lead you all to my most beloved Son, so that you may find joy in His Heart.  I am with you to instruct you and to lead you towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary wants us to “persistently work” on our conversion towards Jesus Christ.  This theme of conversion is echoed repeatedly throughout the mysteries of the rosary.  We see it most clearly in the Third Luminous Mystery.  We are called to live for Jesus’ kingdom of Heaven by converting our earthly ways to His heavenly ways.  I like how Mary calls conversion “persistent work” in that our conversion towards Christ isn’t something done in an instant.  Everyone, from the normal person on the street to the Pope has to work constantly on their conversion towards Christ.  Mary adds that not only should we work towards conversion, but we should work with joy since there is no higher goal than living in God’s grace and one day living in His kingdom of Heaven.

The idea of joy is repeated throughout Her message.  She says that we should convert with joy, offer up our joys, and we can find joy in His heart.  At times we don’t always think of our faith with a sense of joy and wonder.  Instead we see its rules, laws, and obligations.  We see it as a burden to go to Mass on Sunday.  We see only the hardship of following the Church’s laws and not being able to do whatever we want.  But we miss the joy of working towards something so much greater than what this world has to offer.

May we listen to our mother, Mary, and persistently work on our conversion to be true followers of Christ.  May we keep our eyes on that eternal goal of the joy of Heaven instead of being consumed entirely by shallow, earthly pursuits.  Mary asks us to orient ourselves towards Jesus Christ.  Ask yourself, which way are you pointing?

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Rosary Meditation — The First Luminous Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on The First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. In this mystery we see Jesus transforming Baptism from being a purely symbolic act of renewal to an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our soul of original sin. For this mystery I’m going to focus on the central message of John the Baptist — a call to repentance. While John is usually associated with Baptism (hence his title), his ministry really focuses on the Sacrament of Confession. He preached that we prepare ourselves to fully receive God when we approach Him with a repentant heart. These two sacraments really go hand-in-hand in that they both center around the Holy Spirit cleansing our soul of the effects of sin.

Farmer at the dentist, Johann Liss, c. 1616-17.
Image via Wikipedia

This rosary meditation focuses on The First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  In this mystery we see Jesus transforming Baptism from being a purely symbolic act of renewal to an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our soul of original sin.  For this mystery I’m going to focus on the central message of John the Baptist — a call to repentance.  While John is usually associated with Baptism (hence his title), his ministry really focuses on the Sacrament of Confession.  He preached that we prepare ourselves to fully receive God when we approach Him with a repentant heart.  These two sacraments really go hand-in-hand in that they both center around the Holy Spirit cleansing our soul of the effects of sin.

Think about how you take care of your teeth.  You brush and floss daily to keep them clean.  However, every six months you also need to go to a dentist to have your mouth thoroughly inspected and cleaned by a professional.  Seeing your dentist is not a sign of bad oral health.  It’s not like the only people who need to see a dentist are those who do not brush regularly.  Rather, everyone needs regular brushing and checkups or else our teeth will not be their strongest.  Skipping the daily brushing routine or the checkups might lead to premature dentures.

What does this have to do with repentance besides the fact that most people would probably consider a trip to the dentist as some sort of penance?  Like brushing your teeth, prayer must be part of your daily routine to keep your soul healthy.  Regular prayer is your time to reflect on all those ways you have lived God’s will and offer Him thanksgiving.  You also ask for strength and guidance to continue living a spiritually healthy life.  Prayer serves as a little check to prevent sin from entering and decaying your soul.  However, every so often you also need to see a professional to give your soul a thorough scrubbing away of sin.  And that scrubbing is the Sacrament of Confession.

Just like how brushing alone isn’t enough to keep your teeth healthy, individual prayer alone is not enough to keep your soul healthy.  You can’t completely fix the effects of sin with only individual prayer.  There are instances where your soul requires the help of a professional in order to fix the spiritual decay that may be attacking and spreading within you.  You may think that my analogy leads to the priest hearing your confession to be that professional who “fixes” your soul.  However, the priest is merely the assistant.  The real professional, the one who actually cleanses your soul of sin, is God.  God works through the priest to clean your soul and restore it back to a clean and healthy state.

This mystery should remind us of John the Baptist’s message that we should “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mt 3:3).  Let us remember to be thoroughly repentant not just through our private prayers but also by receiving the sacrament of Confession.  That way we clear out souls of everything that blocks us from fully receiving God’s graces.  Instead of seeing confession as some sort of punishment, let us see it for what it really is — a gift.  It is our chance to set things right, fix what is broken in our life, and build a stronger relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.  May we remember that it is through confession that we return to that pure innocence that we had at our Baptism.  We return to that state of grace that God desires for all of us.  So let us make the effort to go to Confession regularly (the Church says at least once a year) and live as true disciples of Jesus Christ.  And you might want to pop in to see your dentist as well!

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Becoming a Winner Through Sacrifice

Along with the rewards and benefits that come with membership in the Catholic Church comes duties, obligations, and even sacrifices. This article on the Catholic News Agency discusses how the secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, says that modern society has lost the ideas of duty and sacrifice. I see the theme of duty represented in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery and the importance of sacrifice shown in the Third Luminous Mystery. We should meditate on these mysteries for the strength and courage to do all that God asks of us.

Rocky Balboa: The Best of Rocky album cover
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Along with the rewards and benefits that come with membership in the Catholic Church come duties, obligations, and even sacrifices.  This article on the Catholic News Agency discusses how the secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, says that modern society has lost the ideas of duty and sacrifice.  I see the theme of duty represented in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery and the importance of sacrifice shown in the Third Luminous Mystery.  We should meditate on these mysteries for the strength and courage to do all that God asks of us.

Through His death, Jesus showed us that we all have a duty to live and defend our faith.  As I said in my Crucifixion meditation, I feel that Jesus’ crucifixion is the ultimate example that we are all called to follow God’s plan even in the face of great difficulty.  It is our duty, as Catholics, to remain faithful no matter the earthly consequences our faith might bring.  I see so many instances where peoples’ duty to the Catholic faith stops as soon as it comes in conflict with their personal views, beliefs, or lifestyle.  However, the Church always reminds us that we have an obligation to put God first in our lives.  And while that can cause great hardship in this life, God rewards our dedication with everlasting life in His kingdom.

The Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion, outlines the need for sacrifice.  I typically see sacrifice in terms of fasting.  However, I often wonder what difference it makes whether I fast or not.  After all, am I a better person because I skip a dessert or give up drinking soda?  Do my prayers carry any more weight because I didn’t eat meat on a Friday?  When put into the context of the Third Luminous Mystery, sacrifice and fasting make more sense.  In his book, “Fasting,” Fr. Slavko Barbaric explains the sacrifice of fasting as “a call for conversion directed to our body… by which we become free from and independent of all material things.”  Notice how he echos the idea of sacrifice being a tool for conversion.  When we fast and sacrifice, we detach ourselves from the fleeting pleasures of this world and open ourselves to the much greater gift of God’s grace.  In other words, God is no more receptive to us because we fast (after all, He is already infinitely receptive to everyone) but we become more receptive to God.

Our duty as Catholics to live a life of sacrifice will not be easy.  However, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues is very direct when he says, “God’s plan cannot be fulfilled except through sacrifice.”  In other words, sacrifice is not something optional for Catholics nor is it something we should only think about during holy seasons like Lent.   Yes, our faith can present challenges.  But what challenge can be so great that it is not worth the promise of God’s Heavenly kingdom?

Here’s a little snippet from the movie, “Rocky Balboa” where Rocky explains to his son that winning means being able to make sacrifices and endure life’s challenges.  Think about this philosophy in terms of your faith.  Are you a fighter or are you letting life’s hardships keep you down?  Do you have the conviction to really live for God’s kingdom by always striving to do God’s will even in the face of great difficulty?

PS: “Fasting” is out of print, but it is worth picking up a used copy.  It is only 47 pages (large type), but it is a great introduction on the importance of fasting.

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Kiva — Teaching Someone to Fish

I’m going to diverge a little from my usual posts and talk about a topic that combines charity, investing, and entrepreneurship. I’m going to talk about Kiva. Kiva is a website that allows you to give small loans to people, typically who live in poor areas of the world. Kiva describes itself as the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Its mission is to help alleviate poverty.

Image representing Kiva as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I’m going to diverge a little from my usual posts and talk about a topic that combines charity, investing, and entrepreneurship.  I’m going to talk about Kiva.  Kiva is a website that allows you to give small loans to people, typically to those who live in poor areas of the world.  Kiva describes itself as the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.  Its mission is to help alleviate poverty.

I discovered Kiva by accident.  I received a gift certificate for it as an award at work.  At first I was a little disappointed because previous award winners received items like a new iPod.  And who doesn’t like receiving a shiny, new gadget?  Not knowing anything about Kiva, I felt like someone had made a donation to charity in my name.  That would have been fine and I would have been quite happy if that had been the case.  But there was still that little, materialistic part of me that really wanted the cool gizmo.  But that was before I learned what Kiva was all about.

Kiva is not a charity in the way you traditionally think of one.  You do not just write a check that goes into a large pool of money to be handed out or used for administrative costs.  Instead, you are contributing directly to individuals who are trying to improve their lives and the lives of their families.  You are not giving people a handout, rather you are loaning them money so they can do something constructive with it.  The whole concept reminds me of the saying, “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.”  Kiva is the opportunity to “teach people to fish” since they are using this money to build a business, get an education, or improve their situation some other way.  It feels great knowing that there is a specific person, with specific goals, who is helped by a small contribution.  It is amazing how we have the power to transform lives for the cost of a book or DVD.

You do not earn interest from your loans on Kiva.  But you do get your principle investment back and can loan it to others (Kiva has a 98% repayment rate).  And that is the most amazing aspect of the whole operation — you have the ability to perpetually help many people for years with a very small initial investment.  Think of it like this — a one-time donation of $100 to a typical charity is spent once and is gone.  However, putting that same $100 into a Kiva account has the potential to help people achieve their dreams indefinitely.  How often can you say that $25 (the minimum loan amount) transformed people’s lives by allowing someone to fix his taxi, grow fruit to sell at a market, and build a home?  Those are just some real examples of how my loans were utilized.

It is rare in this world that so little can go such a long way.  I’m reminded about the story of Jesus multiplying the fish and bread to feed the masses (John 6).  At first no one would have thought that a young boy’s meager offer of a few loaves and some fish would be enough to satisfy so many people.  But through the power of Jesus Christ, the boy’s sacrifice did produce enough to feed everyone.  In a similar vein, a seemingly small contribution to Kiva can go a long way in helping those who are trying to help themselves.  So whose behavior do you want to imitate?  Do you want to act like the apostles and doubt that a small contribution might do any good?  Or do you want to be like the boy and offer what you can and see miracles happen?

PS: I do not work for Kiva or benefit personally in any way from it.  I just think it is something everyone should know about.

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