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Losing Those Close To Us

Today is three years since my Dad died, and I miss him dearly. With the exception of my wife, there’s probably no one I talked to more frequently. He was always there, my biggest fan and advocate. I wrote about him on October 23rd, 2019. 

My Dad didn’t die suddenly, but was failing over a period of time. The same was true for my father-in-law and most of the people I’ve lost in my life. Now 59 myself, the list is extensive, including all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others…most where it wasn’t a surprise by the time they reached the end. I have a cousin, Eric who died almost 30 years ago at the age of 30, from Hodgkin disease. With him beginning his cancer journey at age 9, it wasn’t a surprise, although very sad and felt different given how young he was. 

My father and mother

Jim Sweeney, acclaimed offensive lineman at Pitt, followed by the New York Jets and the Steelers, just suddenly died at age 60. I had the privilege of knowing Jim, playing high school football with him and reconnecting when in our early 40s. With all his success, you’d never meet a more humble person than Jim. What a great guy, who will be missed by many. 

Jim was a shock. The deaths of the others, as indicated, were expected. Brian, a friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, is in a different category for me. Still with us while fighting a cancer that has progressed significantly, it’s tough to watch. Maybe it’s different because Brian is 10 years younger than me. Or because I’m of the age where my own mortality is more relevant. Or knowing the age of his kids, sensing what this is doing to his family. 

I say “watch” above figuratively because I’ve not seen Brian often (couple times) since his diagnosis. I feel badly in not being more present to him. We talk and text periodically. I pray for him and his family often. None of it seems like enough.

Where am I going with this?

What’s my point? I think it’s three things…love, gratitude, and reflection. Taking the last first, I think we can learn a lot in reflecting on the lives of others. What are the lessons for us? Their impact on our lives? The things they may have done differently. We can also reflect on how we interacted with them…the things we would change for the future with others. 

Born out of that reflection should be gratitude…for their lives, our relationships, and the lessons learned. When talking about death and suffering, it’s sometimes difficult to have an “attitude of gratitude”, understanding as I often say, “everything happens for a reason, according to God’s grand plan”. Believing that God doesn’t create these things, it’s my lived experience that He allows them to bring a greater good, have us grow closer to Him, and internalize His unconditional love. 

Lastly is love, which arguably always comes first. Above all else as Jesus tells us in the Great Commandments, we’re called to love…love God and love our neighbors. While still on this earth, we need to love them, love them, love them, which can take many forms. That love can’t wait till they’re gone. We need to act. I need to act, not letting the busyness of life get in the way, not being distracted by the unimportant. 

Here’s my encouragement to all of us. Life is precious. Life is short. Let’s love each other, including those sick, suffering, or in need. Let’s be grateful for the lives of others, and our relationship with them. Let’s continue to learn all that we can from those who go before us, so we can live the lives God calls us to. 

As always, please email me with questions, concerns, comments, or prayer requests at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Why You Beat Yourself Up

Last week, we talked about conditional love. My lived experience is that it creates in us a lack of self-love. In believing that we only receive love if we perform well and to the satisfaction of others, we don’t love or believe in ourselves when we don’t perform well. Not loving self then creates fear (next week’s subject), which prevents us from trying and doing things, using our God given talents, meeting our full potential.  

We believe that we have to perform well to be loved. Stated another way, we fear that if we don’t perform well, we won’t be loved. And at a fundamental level, we all want to be loved; we all want to be accepted. 

Related to lack of self-love, consider this – you do really well at something, then hearing ten compliments and one criticism. What is it you remember and concentrate on long after the occurrence? If you’re like most, it’s the criticism. You see flaws in yourself that you don’t see in others. We judge ourselves much more harshly than others. All of this is a result of lack of self-love, born of conditional love. 

Same Was True for Me

My lack of self-love resulted in me beating myself up on a regular basis. From the outside, I was this confident guy, who had it all together…nice family, good business, nice things, but I was crumbling inside. It was real….I had no peace or joy in my life. I was on that hamster wheel, exhausted, deflated, and frustrated. I was overwhelmed. 

We can beat ourselves up over past sins and past decisions, big or small. Both have been an issue for me. Taking the latter as an example, I remember making a business decision with significant financial impact. It turned out to be the wrong decision, with a dramatic negative result. I carried that burden with me for an incredibly long time, beating the “crap” out of myself regularly, i.e., daily, hourly. I couldn’t let it go. According to my therapist, referenced again below, it was stealing the energy from me to live a happy and fulfilled life. 

It Happens to All of Us

When writing my book, I wanted to vet the concepts. As such, I reached out to the Christian therapist who helped me so much on my journey….more on that later in this blog series. I said to her something like, “70-75% of people suffer from lack of self-love…right?” She scoffed at me, laughing. I’ll never forget it. I said, “what do you mean?” She then said, “try 95%+”. She then explained that based on her experience and research, that lack of self-love easily afflicts more than 95% of us”. Wow!!!

Here’s the Truth of the Situation 

Those closest to you, who truly love you, family and friends, could care less how you perform. They’re going to love you anyhow. And God loves you more than you’ll ever know, no matter what you’ve ever done. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the Cross for your sins, dare I say your faults and failings. 

Life is messy, as we’ve discussed in this series so far. The mess is going to continue as we further unpack things over the next several weeks…before we get to the good stuff…the path to peace, joy, and fulfillment. Stay tuned. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

COVID and Church Doctrine

The only thing that may be more divisive in our country today than politics is the COVID vaccine. Many disagree on the issue, including me and who I refer to as my creative genius, Mary Kate, who manages Mark Joseph Ministries’ communications. Although not the point of this blog, we can disagree without being disagreeable. It is possible and I would argue a good thing. In doing so, our country would be a better place and we would have more peace in our lives.   

Related to the title of this blog, some background is required. In addition to those I’ve heard about in the news, I now personally know two people who face termination from their employment if they’re not vaccinated. One works 100% remotely, which would seem to pose no risk to a safe work environment. Both Catholic, they’ve looked to their faith, our Church, for support in the form of a religious exemption, which is stated as being valid by the organizations forcing vaccinations. 

In doing an internet search, there are at least 10 Bishops who have issued instructions to their clergy, mandating they not assist the faithful in any efforts to claim religious exemption. Add to that many Bishops mandating vaccination for all Diocesan employees. Interesting view by Church leadership, as you’ll see below. 

You may have been vaccinated. I fully support whatever decision you make for yourself on this issue, given your free will and conscience (the point of this blog), which was given to you by God. That said, points that might contribute to people’s hesitation are worth considering, whether you agree with them or not: 

  • Vaccines typically take 8-10 years to develop, test, and be approved by the FDA. The 3 COVID vaccines on the market began being used on a wide basis in less than a year, with FDA approval granted months after initial use. 
  • Messenger RNA, the key component in 2 of 3 of the vaccines, has never been put into the human body before. 
  • There are numerous examples of severe side effects from the vaccine, namely blood clots and associated disorders, inflammation of the heart, including in teenagers, life threatening allergic reactions, Bell’s Palsy, miscarriages, and premature births. 
  • Given the short timeframe of the trials, less than a year vs. 8-10 as stated above, we have no idea what the long-term impacts are of these vaccines. 
  • The swine flu vaccine was stopped in 1976 by the US Government when fatalities from the shot hit 53. The government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) indicates there have been 6,128 deaths in the US due to the COVID vaccines. The number is double that worldwide. 
  • There are treatments (not vaccines) that have been proven to be effective in curing patients of COVID, specifically hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and monoclonal antibody therapy, along with Vitamins C, D, and zinc. 
  • It’s widely known that those who risk severe sickness or death are the elderly and those with comorbidities. We also know that our youth rarely get COVID and if they do their symptoms are mild unless they have comorbidities. So, what is the rationale for 100% vaccination? 
  • When COVID broke, the issues were deaths, ventilators, and hospital beds, none of which have spiked with the uptick in cases and the delta variant.
  • The government’s (and big tech and big business and others) insistence on all people being vaccinated negates whether they’ve had COVID, therefore having the antibodies which are recognized as being better protection than the vaccine. They’re being forced to be vaccinated anyhow.
  • On May 1st, the CDC decided to stop tracking break through cases (already vaccinated), but instead only cases from the fully vaccinated that result in hospitalization or death, leaving health officials without full data. 
  • If vaccines work, why the masks for those vaccinated? If vaccines work, why would those vaccinated care if others aren’t vaccinated?   

You may think the above is pertinent or not. You may be vaccinated or not. Again, I respect your decision. That said, I think we can all agree that the above list could give pause to at least some, which leads to the following. 

Specific to Church doctrine (the point of this blog), you’ve read before where I’ve stated that all the answers to life can be found in Scripture and from the teachings of the Church. As it turns out, the Church speaks to the above issue in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): 

  • Our identity in Christ, made in the image and likeness of God
    • CCC Paragraph 1700 – The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment. By his deliberate actions, the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience. Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth. With the help of grace they grow in virtue, avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven. In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.
  • Our judgement, given moral conscience 
    • CCC Paragraph 1776 – “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
    • CCC Paragraph 1782 – Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”

If interested in the above, including how it relates to real life issues, I suggest reading the Catechism, Paragraphs 1700 – 1802. Understand, I’m not a theologian, but as supported by the Catechism (and other sources, including Scripture and other Church teaching), we know that:

  • We are made in the image and likeness of God,
  • With a free will and a conscience,
  • Which God calls us to exercise. 

As such, I’m not sure why some of our Bishops are hesitant to have Clergy assist with religious exemptions; or why some would be forcing vaccinations on all Diocesan employees when arguably at least some are resisting due to matters of conscience. Lastly, in the name of social justice, what about the impact of forced vaccinations on those in most need in our society? 

This is tough stuff, and we live in a challenging world. There’s always going to be an interplay between politics, culture, and faith. That said, we know the impact of the life changing message of Jesus Christ. With our dramatically declining numbers, it’s my prayer that all Christians be intentional about rebuilding our Church, genuinely sharing the love (and truth) of Christ both to those in our pews and outside our Church walls. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.  

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

 

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Living in the Bubble

I’ve come to believe most (maybe all) things we truly engage in are about encounter and community. Take sports or a hobby…we have a first encounter or introduction, most often followed by support like training, coordination, events, i.e. games. Experienced in person or online, community is affirming.

The same is true with our faith. To be truly engaged, there’s been an encounter…with Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Encounter can then also be one on one with others. Examples of community are worshipping together (for Catholics…Mass), small groups, like-minded friends, ministry or mission work, etc. All are affirming.

I have the privilege of working at Franciscan University of Steubenville, in the Office of Outreach and Evangelization. As part of my work, I travel the country for our Steubenville Conferences. I get to associate with the best of the best Catholic authors and speakers, all holy people. I’m honored to call our regional partners friends, all joy-filled people committed to sharing the love of Christ. Every year, I see literally thousands and thousands evangelized.

I run into others outside of work who I’m connected to through my faith. Our church, even with its challenges, has so much to offer. Pre-COVID, my wife and I were part of a vibrant Parish (we need to get back to that). I belong to a small group, a free, online Steubenville Discipleship Quad. All of my friends are on my same journey of loving God, loving others, and sharing our faith.

I fondly refer to all of the above as my “bubble”, the bubble. I love living in the bubble. In that bubble, I have encounter…with Jesus and with others one on one. I also have community…all of us heading in the same direction, the right direction.

 

It’s a Crazy World

We live in a crazy world, that has gotten crazier over the last six months. I refer to it as bizzarro world. What’s going on is unimaginable…or at least it was 12 months ago for most Americans.

Given society’s challenges, I thank God for the bubble. I’m incredibly appreciative of my encounters (including and especially with Jesus) and my community. It’s hard to imagine life without both. My bubble is my safe place, the joy filled experiences, where authentic relationships live, where common bonds are had because common beliefs are shared.

All of us are called to go outside the bubble as well, where we love God, love others, and share our faith. It’s our call from Jesus in the Great Commandments and Great Commission. It’s also our passion, given the gift of Christ we’ve been given. While I love being in the bubble, I know I have to go outside it…to help it grow.

Given that you’re reading this blog, I assume you have your version of the “God” bubble. Maybe the above is suggesting a new or expanded context for you. Go outside your bubble. It’s our calling. That said, embrace your bubble. Grow the relationships within your bubble. Engage. Encounter. Enjoy community and be affirmed by it. God is great. Your bubble is a great place to experience Him and others on the journey.

As always, feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with comments, questions, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.

God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph