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Our Challenging Times…Three Things We Can All Do

Regardless of whether you’re on the political left or right, or right down the middle as an independent, we can probably all agree that our country is facing challenging times. In talking to folks, although the above is the consensus, it’s typically followed up with:

  • “There’s nothing I can do” (or)
  • “What can I do about it?”

As indicated in previous posts, I’d suggest taking that question to prayer, like we should all things, asking God to speak into our challenges and our lives. That said, there are three things that all of us as Christians can and should do, assuming we want to make a positive impact on those around us and the broader society…yes our country.

Those three things are indicated in the:

  • Great Commandments – Mark 12: 30-31 or Matthew 22:37-39
    1. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”.
    2. “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
  • Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20
    1. “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

I heard a Priest once say that hardly anyone confesses sinning against the First Commandment, which is “I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me”. The fact is that in abiding by this Commandment, including how it is stated in the positive above (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”), the other 9 Commandments are much less an issue. I don’t say this because they’re not important. I say it because if we truly love God and do so before all else, the degree to which we sin is far less.

In abiding by the first part of the Great Commandments, we’re happier and healthier, helping those around us to be the same.

Many of us know the Golden Rule as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 7:12. Stated in the positive, as Jesus expressed in the Great Commandments, we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. What kind of world would we live in if this were always first and foremost in our minds?

The Great Commission speaks to our call, not a mere suggestion by Jesus, to share the love of Christ, to share our faith with others. Jesus makes the point that He’ll be with us every step along the way.

So many in our society, as evidenced by the dramatic decline in practicing Christians (including Catholics), don’t know the love of Christ. Statistically we’ve gone from 75% claiming themselves as being Christian in the 80s and 90s to just 50% today.

What would happen if we could change the above trend? Think about it. Think about the impact it would have. In summary, love God, love others, and share our faith. What would our country look like if we all did a lot more of that?

The next time you think “there’s nothing I can do” (or) “what can I do about it?”, do the above. Again…Love God. Love others. Share our faith.

As always, please contact me with comments, questions, concerns, challenges, 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

When It Gets Tough

When things are going well, it’s easy. Many don’t believe they need anything or anybody. Including committed Christians, people think things are good when things are good. If you’re like me, you believe everything happens for a reason, according to God’s grand plan. It’s easy to have that outlook when things are going well.

All that sounds great, but how do you fare during the tough times? What happens when things get challenging? It could be something at work. A health issue…with yourself or someone you love. Maybe even a relationship problem. What’s your outlook in those tough times?

Challenges can be viewed as more global things as well. One example is what’s going on in our country. It’s difficult to see the dramatic increase in violent crime, significantly rising prices, and small businesses struggling. Add to these all the conflicting messaging about COVID, threats to our civil liberties (including religious freedom) lawlessness going unchecked, illegal drugs coming across our boarder, mass censorship, and politicians on both sides of the isle who are complicit. If it weren’t so sad and alarming, it would be laughable, i.e., the new belief by some that men can get pregnant.

What’s God’s plan in the above? I’m not sure and I can’t wait to ask our Lord one day, along with many other things. I do have a couple thoughts. When as a society we have so dramatically stopped living the Christian life, is this what happens? It seems that truth no longer has meaning…is this what we get? Is God sending us a message?

An observation…when 9/11 occurred, Christians flocked to Church. Catholics were lined up to go to confession. Studies showed that statistically speaking, people prayed more and more people prayed. I know in my own life, experiencing tragedy is what brought me to my encounter with Jesus Christ…that which changed my life forever.

A Personal Issue

Or there are those personal things. I’ve had a health issue of late. Nothing too traumatic, my wife and I are concerned about where my symptoms may be leading. Over the last several months, I’ve developed a constant tightness in my hands, with occasional cramping. Although I can certainly live with the current situation, it continues to get worse. Not painful, it is affecting my grip. I’m still able to exercise daily, but I feel it. For the first time, it was bothersome when on my computer the other day. Still pursuing a diagnosis, the medical community hasn’t been able to figure it out. 

I’m sure there are others with much bigger issues than mine. In fact, I personally know several. For all of us…”why”? How are these trials, health related or otherwise, part of God’s grand plan? Remember, I’m one of those people who believe everything happens for a reason. 

Living a Life of Gratitude

You know my story and the tragedy I’ve endured. I am thankful for all of it because I know I wouldn’t’ be who I am today without experiencing those things. I live in a place of gratitude. My version of “gratitude” is believing that all things happen for a reason. I believe that for all things, the big and small, i.e., my hands. 

Jesus died a torturous death (for our sins). Given that He, our Savior, suffered tragedy, we shouldn’t expect otherwise. We’re told in Scripture that life will provide us with challenges. It won’t be easy. It’s not easy. 

Here’s what I know. Life, with its ups and downs, is better with God than without Him. I would encourage all of us to stay close to our Lord. Be prayerful. Go to Church. Maintain good, supporting relationships. Continue to discern the reasons why things happen in your life, whatever the impact. Use all to help you be a better version of yourself, for the glory of God…as difficult as that can be at times. I’ve said it before, “God loves you more than you’ll ever know, no matter what you’ve ever done”.  

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

Memorial Day and Jesus

Memorial Day is when we remember and mourn the loss of all those who died while serving in the U.S. Military. These are men and women who gave their lives for ours’. Most who have served over our country’s history, have gone into the military voluntarily. That means that they made the conscious decision to willingly sacrifice their lives for ours’. Wow!!!

As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Memorial Day seems to be even more of a reminder of sacrifice. I recall hearing stories of people whose lives so changed when those planes hit the twin towers, that they signed up to go fight overseas. We had hundreds of first responders run towards danger, not away from it on September 11th, 2001, many of whom lost their lives.

We see the same thing in our police officers, who have been under attack lately. Yet every morning, they get up, put on the uniform, and leave their homes for what could be the last time. When others are in danger, they run towards it, never knowing the eventual outcome…running towards the danger nonetheless.

We’re further reminded of the sacrifice by all the veterans who come home significantly wounded. They’ve lost limbs, in addition to friends in battle. Although scarred more than just physically, they’ve not lost their spirit. All of them, every single one, says they’d do it again.

So how does all of this relate to Jesus. When beginning to write this blog, my mind immediately went to John 15:13, where Jesus says, “no one has a greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. In verse 14, Jesus states that we are His friends, followed in verse 16 where He says, “you have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you…I have appointed you so that you may go bear fruit”.

In the Great Commandments (Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), which I love siting, Jesus “commands” us to love God, love our neighbors, and share our faith. Not mere suggestions from our Lord, they’re our greatest call. Jesus is our greatest example of sacrifice, with His torturous death on the Cross. He’s also our best example of the Great Commandments and Great Commission…love God, love others, and share our faith.

Our veterans and first responders are also great examples of the Great Commandments. You can’t run towards danger without a love of God. And they certainly love their neighbors.  Our veterans, including those who lost their lives, are true heroes. So are our first responders.

That doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t have the same opportunities to serve. There are numerous heroes in our society, many who aren’t veterans or first responders. The question is, are you among them? Am I among them? Are we willing to lay down our lives, to bear fruit? We do so by loving God, loving our neighbors, and sharing our faith. And in doing so, not only are you a hero, often unspoken of course, but you’ll be living a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment!!!

As always, please 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

P.S. If you’d like to support our veterans and first responders, my wife and I love the Tunnels to Tower Foundation (https://t2t.org).

 

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Weekly Blog

What Church Could Be Once Again

Pre-COVID, what’s your experience of Church? Were the pews full? Do entire families attend? Is there a vibrancy?

Many of us are old enough to remember when the Parish was central to family life. As I recall, most of the people on our street attended my boyhood Parish. So did many more, who we got to bond with every Sunday as entire families. With the Masses full, we didn’t just jet out of the parking lot after, but engaged with other families, often around the donut table. Sacraments were flourishing. My parents would go to the New Years’ Eve and Valentine’s Day dances at the Parish with their many friends. There was the summer Parish picnic and other events throughout the year. Father used to come over for dinner and my parents would volunteer at the Parish.

For most of us, those memories are of the past. Christianity has suffered from dramatically decreasing numbers over the last several decades. This trend includes the Catholic Church, with Masses being much less crowded. In many Dioceses, some Parishes are closing or clustering. Statistically our numbers are way down, whether it’s the number of weddings, baptisms, or first communions. Add to that the reduced number of Priests and Religious Sisters. What is on the rise is the number of Parishes without a resident Priest, now 1 in 5 in the U.S., up five-fold over the last several decades.

What the Local Church Can Become

Imagine Parishes where Churches are full for every Mass. Parishioners participant in vibrant and engaging liturgies, in Parishes that are known for their hospitality. The number of volunteers at the Parish is only exceeded by those in small groups. There’s an atmosphere of “family ministry”, where programs not only exist for the entire family, but youth and adults of all ages, at all stations of life. In addition:

  • Religious Education classes are full, led by engaged teachers, who share the love of Christ with their students while providing strong Catholic orthodoxy in a compelling way.
  • With a culture of evangelization and discipleship, the RCIA program ushers in numerous people to the Church every year.
  • Based in a deep spirituality, there is a culture of generosity which includes Parishioners’ time, talents, and treasures, both within the Parish as well as providing service to the community.
  • Parishes are known for their outreach to those in need, attracting people to the faith, and accompanying their Parishioners in their spiritual growth.
  • Parishes are the center of activity for Parishioners and others in the community.
  • Not only are vocations to religious life no longer in short supply, but the elderly are cared for, marriages are thriving, and families are growing in holiness.
  • Significantly more people are living their faith, have hope, and know their purpose in life.

You think the above is a thing of the past, a pipedream? Think again. It can be done. Although they are not in significant number, there are Catholic Parishes, with strong Pastoral leadership, as well as non-denominational Churches, which are “re-envisioning Church” and renewing the spiritual lives of their Parishioners.

What Can We Do?

I don’t know about you, but the parents and grandparents I know who are actively engaged in their faith (me included) have one primary desire, in addition to pursuing our faith. That is passing along the faith to their kids and grandkids. Friends too. It’s Jesus’ desire too, giving us the Great Commandments and Great Commission.

Consistent with Vatican II and the New Evangelization, the laity are called to work with our Clergy, who cannot do it alone. Our Priests need support, assistance, and collaboration in revitalizing our Parishes, making them places of vibrant worship and missionary discipleship.

What do you see as your role? How can you help? What can you do? There’s a lot. Feel free to reach out to me. Happy to chat about it. We can have what we had years ago and to my way of thinking, it’s a pursuit worth pursuing. Amen!!!

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