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Weekly Blog

Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

We’ve all heard before, “Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner”. Is that how you handle conflict? Or do you, like me, fail to abide by that practice?
 
I remember living through my first wife’s addiction, confessing to my therapist how upset I was with her. Given the family dysfunction related to addiction, the disease was killing her and it was killing me, emotionally and physically (stress, weight loss, headaches). Gratified to hear that my feelings were normal didn’t mean that they were acceptable. Having heard the above expression previously, it was the first time I really began to understand “hate the sin, not the sinner”.    

In Scripture we read…“do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Another Scripture verse that speaks to this issue is where Peter asks how often he is to forgive. Jesus responds to him in Matthew 18:22, “I do not say to you even seven times, but even seventy times seven times”.

All of these verses speak to “hate the sin, not the sinner”. As I’ve learned, one of the tricks is to not assume malice. Most often, when someone does something that upsets you, they’ve not done it to intentionally hurt you. It helps to have an attitude of understanding, believing that the other person wasn’t intentionally wanting to harm you, then working to resolve the matter. BTW, all of this is easier said than done. It really takes practice.

My experience would indicate that there’s another factor in all of this, that is the complicity that we may have in the conflict. How have our actions added to the dilemma? What role have we played? How does how we feel about ourselves contribute to the reaction we’ve had? All questions I’ve had to ask myself as I mature in life and in my faith.

Let’s consider a more global issue, i.e. abortion. As Christians, I’m hopeful that we can all agree that it is an intrinsic evil, as identified by the teachings of the Church and documented by the Unite States Conference of Catholic Bishops. After 49 years, Roe v. Wade was finally overturned by the Supreme Court, an answer to many prayers by many people for many years.

With the above, we’ve seen some real ugliness, whether it be personal attacks, protesting that turns violent, pro-life facilities being vandalized, and threats being made.

As Christians, we need to abide by Matthew 7:12 and 18:22, as well as Mark 12:31. We need to recognize that ALL OF US are beloved children of God. We’re also all sinners, each and every one of us. Another verse I’m reminded of here is when Jesus says, “how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and not see the board in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

It may be easy to hate the protesters sited above. I get it and I’m guilty of it. Their actions are reprehensible. But that’s not what Jesus calls us to do. And the reality is that hating them isn’t going to change them, nor our world.

I’d encourage all of us to try very hard to “hate the sin, not the sinner”. It’s the only way we’re going to change hearts and change our world. I’d also suggest that we examine our role in all things. And always, for guidance and as our greatest example, go to Jesus.

As always, please contact me at [email protected] with comments, questions, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.

Always remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Why Share the Love of Christ?

In reading Scripture, the answer to the above is obvious. With all the things Jesus said while here on earth, two of the most impactful were the Great Commandments (Mark 12:29-31) and Great Commission, in summary…love God, love your neighbor, and share the Gospel message (love of Christ). I’d suggest that these weren’t mere suggestions from our Lord. He was specific.   

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus said before ascending to Heaven, 19 “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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Verse 20 gets less attention that 19. Jesus tells us, “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”. Related, it’s my lived experience that the only path to peace, joy, and fulfillment is to say “yes” to Jesus. It’s what Jesus promises us in verse 20. 

Saying “yes” to Jesus means being His Disciple, a part of which is making other Disciples. The question is “how” do we do this. My first suggestion is to not hit people over the head with our Bibles. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. We need to love them first, where they are, for who they are. 

We’ve all heard the merits of teaching a man to fish as opposed to feeding him a fish. Discipleship calls on us to teach others how to become teachers of teachers, i.e. Disciples making Disciples. To do so, we need to exercise humility: 

  • The discipleship relationship is not that of a doctor to a patient, teacher to a student, or even a Priest to a parishioner 
  • It is founded in a personal relationship with a brother or sister in Christ. 
  • The intent isn’t to mold versions of ourselves, but to help others be Disciples for Christ, to be like Jesus 

As St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. There are several elements to evangelizing:

  • Be prayerful – you can’t give away what you don’t have
  • Pray for those God puts in front of you
  • Build relationships with others – learn their stories so that you can share in a way that is relevant to them. 

Pope Paul VI stated, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”. We’re called to share our faith, which means sharing our story. We do so by sharing…

  • Your life before you recognized Christ as a meaningful part of it
  • How you came to know Jesus Christ (your conversion)
  • Your life in Christ, including the challenges
  • Make the invitation to others to join you on the journey

We hear of Peter and the other fishermen dropping their nets. Others leave behind their former lives to follow Jesus, which is the most important decision a person can ever make. Our call is to follow Jesus consciously and intentionally with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Once made, that decision should drive everything in your life. Once made, you have the opportunity for peace, joy, and fulfillment. 

Remember, being a Disciple includes making Disciples. If interested in a model that is engaging, effective, and free of charge, go to https://steubenvilleconferences.com/discipleship-quads/, or contact me. I’d be happy to share with you. 

As always, please email me at [email protected] with questions, concerns, comments, 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

The Sacrament…What’s In Them For Me? 

Two weeks ago, we spoke about how most Christians compartmentalize their faith…it’s a Sunday thing, with many of us living the other 6 days of the week devoid of God. In the following week’s blog, we established how God is more loving, knowing, and present than anyone possibly can be in your life.   

Transitioning, I’d like you to imagine yourself a professional athlete or Olympian, or in the arts, i.e., artist, singer/musician, or actor, where you only become your best and most fulfilled in following specific disciplines. You’re wildly successful, fulfilled in the progress you make with all the hard work you put in, further gratified in how you perform in the big game or on the main stage. 

Here’s how that applies to you…while you probably don’t (I don’t) have the notoriety or fame of a superstar athlete or artist, like them you were given very specific and unique gifts and talents from our Lord. Also like them, you were given a special God given purpose for your life and made for greatness. 

What we’ve also established in this series is that in addition to understanding your identity in Christ, knowing your “why”, and embracing and pursuing your talents and purpose, that the only way to live a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment (wanted by all of us), is to avail ourselves to God’s love, grace, mercy, and wisdom. 

Prayer is obviously a big part of the above. So are the Sacraments. Let’s start with the Sunday Mass. Some suggestions. Learn about the Mass. Do an internet search. Buy a book. Mark Hart wrote “Behold the Mystery”…great read. Dr. Scott Hahn has written books on the Liturgy….very good as well. The Mass came alive for me once I understood all the Mass parts. Some other things: 

  • Get a Mass Journal and take notes, especially related to the Homilies. 
    • You become an active listener, not being distracted…noting what’s important to you
    • There’s always a nugget for future reference. Regardless of your past experience, there’s always something in the Homily or Readings worth noting. Try it.  
  • Pray through the Mass parts. I say this following the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus…”My Lord, My God, Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, come into my mind, heart, body, and soul”.  
  • Sing…worship our Lord – singing is praying twice. 

Doing all of these things will make you more engaged. The more engaged you are, the more you’ll get out of the Liturgy. Try it. Another thing to try is going to Mass more than just on Sundays. Now going daily, I love the simplicity of the daily Liturgy. There’s a beauty to it. Everyone knows one another…great community. Receiving the Eucharist daily strengthens me spiritually and emotionally. Try it if you can…you may be surprised. 

Speaking of the Eucharist, one thing I didn’t mention last week…for me tying prayer to the Eucharist. While the specific place isn’t critical, I’d suggest picking a place and time you can do it daily…setting your watch to it, just like how you schedule your meals or possibly your workouts. The place I love to pray is in Church, prior to daily Mass, in front of Jesus in the Eucharist. It’s always my best prayer time. 

There’s a story of a Peasant from Ars, France, who daily prayed in front of Jesus in the Eucharist, exposed in the Monstrance. When asked about it he responded, “He looks at me and I just look back at Him”. It can be that simple. Jesus wants nothing more than for us to be in relationship with Him…pray as you’d like. He loves it all.  

Confession – I feel sorry for our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters, who don’t have this Sacrament. Going to Confession only sparingly prior to my conversion, my first afterwards was life changing. With me a blubbering mess, Fr. Steve was so kind, patient, loving, and “in Christo” forgiving. It was so cleansing and freeing. While the Church indicates that we need to go at least annually, I now go monthly…thank God!!!  

If you would have told me 15 years ago that the Sacraments would change my life, I would have said you’re crazy. Well, they have. Not only have I grown spiritually, but I’m a better husband, father, son, brother, friend, and mentor. My faith has also been instrumental in me honing my talents and fulfilling my purpose. Lastly, my faith, our God, is critical to me living a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment. Praise God!!!!

As always, please email me at [email protected] with any questions, comments, concerns, suggestions (of future blog posts or other), 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

Tragedy…What a Blessing

It’s said that we can all expect two things as part of life…death and taxes. I would adamantly argue that there’s a third…human tragedy, suffering. No one can escape it. Life is messy and it’s part of humanity, the human condition. 

It can strike as something global like war, terrorism, or a natural disaster. It can be something more personal like separation or divorce, death of a loved one, a major health issue, addiction, a rift in the family, a horrible personal failure, unresolved conflict with a friend, loss of property, or a financial crisis. 

If it sticks around long enough, it becomes personal. If it’s personal long enough, we often develop resentments. Not sure if you’ve heard the expression, “resenting someone else is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die”. I’ve tried it and believe me, it doesn’t work. 

Every single one of us can point to a tragedy, either personally or in the lives of those closest to us. Many ask the question, “how does an all-loving God allow pain and suffering in our lives?” Pointing to me as an example, in addition to most who I know on this journey…it’s to bring us closer to God, to create a greater good. A couple expressions come to mind: 

  • No pain, no gain
  • No Cross, no crown

I just recently heard that we have to be emptied out, i.e., tragedy and suffering, to be filled up. 

Think about it. When things are going tremendously well, you don’t have a need for anyone else, including God. But when things get tough, that’s when you can’t do it alone. If severe enough, it brings you to your knees, often leading to an encounter with Jesus Christ, internalizing His love, and experiencing conversion. That’s what happened to me and praise God. It rocked my world and changed my life forever. 

 

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Grow

If we allow it, tragedy can be a wake-up call, an invitation to accept the reality of our limitations, to reject the things that leave us feeling overwhelmed and to start moving on the path to lasting fulfillment. The fact is that we can’t control the future or stop bad things from happening. What we can control is the way we live in the present, and the way we accept all the things that happen to us, good or bad. The healthy response is to live joyfully in the moment and to actively engage with others on the journey. 

Some sayings we hear are truer than we know. Examples are “What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger” or “God only gives us what He knows we can handle.” It is in our tragedies, our defeats in life, that we learn our biggest lessons. My greatest tragedies have resulted in my greatest opportunities for growth.

This may come across as odd, but I’m thankful for the tragedies in my life. If you know my story, you know that they were dramatic. You see, I believe everything happens for a reason, according to God’s grand plan. We may not know why in the moment, but God helps us in making a ministry out of our meses. That’s true for me and true for most I know on this same faith journey. As such, I live in a place of gratitude, knowing I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences, albeit very difficult. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today, if not for my significant struggles.

Praise God…it’s never too late to be the person you want to be, the person God calls you to be. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at [email protected], with questions, comments, concerns, or prayer requests. 

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

Remember….God made you for Greatness!

Mark Joseph