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“If [this virtue] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” Dr. P Murali Doraiswamy

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 Imagine the impact on your life if you just injected a drug every morning to enhance your health, both physically and mentally.  And then, imagine what life would be like if you injected the same drug into all of your family, friends, and even co-workers. No doubt life would be immeasurably better for all.

Doriaswamy, a professor at Duke University, is an internationally recognized expert in brain/mind health and successful aging. And the virtue to which he refers is thankfulness or gratitude. 1

The more frequently you practice it, the better off you are.2 For example, you will experience less anxiety, cope with stress more easily, and sleep better.3 The improvements in your body are measurable in several areas. For example:

  1. Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)

  2. Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

  3. Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

  4. Stress hormones (cortisol)

  5. Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

  6. Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms5

  7. Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)

  8. Blood sugar

Another scientific expert on gratitude is Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis.6 He teaches that gratitude is good for at least four reasons:

  1. Gratitude allows people to actively celebrate the present moment

  2. Gratitude blocks negative emotions like envy or resentment and helps people function better

  3. Gratitude makes people more resistant to stress

  4. Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth

I applaud the researchers who are proving the wisdom of God in the Bible. And proving that the instructions found there are for our good and not to restrict us.

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For some reason, Satan has tricked most of us into believing that obedience to God is painful and futile even though Jesus promised in John 10:10 (Amp): The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

In other words, to have the abundant life one must have an attitude of gratitude.

Sources: 1.ABC News November 23, 2011 – 2.Huffington Post November 22, 2014 – 3. Psychology Today November 9, 2011 – 4.American Journal of Cardiology 1995 Nov. 15:76(14):1089-93 – 5.Greatergood.Berkley.edu

Answers to Prayer: A Follow-up to Why Pray?

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Of course, there are times when we are shocked because our prayer ARE answered, sometimes in an unexpected way, sometimes when we least expect it. Not only is it always a good and joyful thing to praise the Lord, it encourages others to discover both big and little ways that God makes Himself known to us.

I am a cancer survivor of 25 years: breast cancer in 1991, metastasis to lung in 2006, colon cancer in 2005, and ocular melanoma in 2005. So in June I went to one of my oncologists because I had become much more of a stumblebum than usual, I had frequent headaches, I found a bony abnormality on a rib near where the original breast tumor had been, and I couldn’t get rid of a cough. And I could not walk a straight line (the kind of test they give on side of highway with DUI cases) in her examining room,  so she ordered a CT scan like I’d been having since 2005 and an MRI.

I left her office with the possibility of either Multiple Sclerosis or brain tumor hanging over my head while I waited for the results of the tests. With my history, I figured MS would be the best I could hope for.

I did attend a special healing service at my parish, which just “happened” to be scheduled a few days before the tests. But, because I no longer drive at night, I had to leave before the laying on of hands or individual prayers. As I walked out, I silently told God that I was ready for whatever He wanted in my life, but at that point, I didn’t expect much.

Several days later, I steeled myself as I heard the door knob turn and I knew Dr. Kramer was coming in to explain the lab, scan, and MRI reports to me.

But when the door opened, she danced into the room almost laughing as she said there were no problems. The scans showed no change in three years and the MRI revealed absolutely no problems. We talked and laughed and repeated ourselves for about 1o minutes. It was one of those occasions when the news is so overwhelming and so good that even educated, articulate people just babble happily with each other.

As I drove home, I thought about my score: Kaye, 4 and Cancer 0, even though two of those cancers were Stage 4. How can I possibly measure up to such an abundance of grace?

I invite any reader to continue this saga by reporting your own answers to prayer in the comments section. Please.


PEACE

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And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body;                 and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15 KJV

Peace is just another five letter word unless you’ve struggled with anxiety, unless you’ve suddenly awakened in a panic wondering how you will be able to survive one more day in the mess you find yourself in, or unless you put on your glasses to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, but find only blackness no matter how hard you squint your eyes. It is a positive good, not just the absence of conflict. Indeed, real peace is possible in the midst of uncertainty and conflict.

Peace is a pearl of great price the we can only acquire from God Himself. We might acquire it when we have made the difficult, but good decision or done the truly loving deed. Once experienced, we long to live in that peace again and we joyfully let go of bad habits and preconceptions into order to feel it again.

The peace of God is the perfect high that all people pursue. Unfortunately, most of us seek it in the wrong places and in the wrong way, totally unaware that God hardwired us to seek it through Him. Although sexual fulfillment is a wonderful gift from God to all husbands and wives who wholly give themselves to each other, it is not the ultimate high. The peace of God is a greater, more lasting high that is readily available to all: married, single, old, young, educated, illiterate, rich, or poor.

Seeking the peace of God propelled Mother Teresa into the streets of Calcutta to joyfully care for the  abandoned ones, the untouchables. She herself said that she wouldn’t do it even for a million dollars, but she gladly did it for the love of God even when the rest of the world watched with disgust, curled lips, and disbelief. She and the many people who followed her into her ministry from all over the world were the happiest people one could ever find.

Perhaps we anxious ones could learn a lesson from her. . . .

 

ROMANS 15:13   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

 I THESSALONIANS 5:23-24   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged—consecrated to Him—set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 HEBREWS 13:20-21   Now may the God of peace [the source of serenity and spiritual well-being] who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood that sealed and ratified the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing to carry out His will and strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be], accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

II PETER 1:2    Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

COLOSSIANS 3:15   Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

The last group of  quotations are from The Amplified Bible.

 

Where are you, Kaye

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In Genesis, God calls to Adam, asking him where he is. This was a generous opportunity for Adam to repent, but like mot of us, he refused the opportunity. Instead, he started making excuses and passing the buck.

Today is Ash Wednesday, when the Church lovingly asks all Christians, “Where are you?” During the Ash Wednesday services, we are reminded to “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” Then we leave to go home and start examining our lives again to see where we need to repent or change and how we can become believers who follow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ ever more closely.

My dear Heavenly Father, please help me to let go of those stupid little habits that I cling to for comfort and to more fully cling to, rely on, and appreciate your Son. Thus, I shall learn to love You more deeply and fruitfully. In the name of Jesus, Amen

  • Handmade “Old Rugged Cross” by Suzanne Fairweather

The Angelus – F.I.N.A.L.E

 

Or: Those Crafty Priests Win Again

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  1. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”. . . .  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. . . . “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. Luke 1:26-28, 31, 35

In other words, God’s words are fruitful and creative when we are open to them and willing to allow them to work in our lives. It’s good to remind ourselves of this every single day; it helps us stay on track.

  1. Behold the handmade of the Lord. Be it unto me according to Thy word.

And Mary said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word . . . .” Luke 1:38

We are all servants of God. Each of us owes everything we are and everything we have to Him. The least we can do is to allow Him to lead us according to the designs He had in mind for us before we were born.

  1. And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14

The creative Word of God becomes real in our lives and through us, Jesus’ love works wonders in the world around us, just as it did when He walked the earth in the flesh.

In between each of these Bible verses, we pray a Hail Mary, asking her to intercede for us, just as we ask friends and relatives to pray for us and our needs. Interestingly enough, most of the Hail Mary is also straight from scripture.

Again, from Luke 1:28 And he (the angel Gabriel) came to her and said, “Hail, (Mary) full of grace, the Lord is with you!”

From Luke 1:41-42 we get “ And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,(Jesus)!”

Then we add the ending where we ask Mary to pray for us during the only important times in our lives – now at this very moment of time and at the time we approach death and our eternal life.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”

And now, I repent of my foolish lack of interest in that dull old Angelus that was so terribly boring. Instead I now relish this way of praying and meditating on the scripture that brings to the front of my mind the importance of closely following Jesus and His Word several times a day.

Do Not Fear: “God Is with You”

Introductory Prayer

Father, you created me and put me on earth for a purpose.
Jesus, you died for me and call me to complete your work.
Holy Spirit, you help me to carry out the work for which I was created and called.
In your presence and name—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I begin my reflection.
May all my thoughts and inspirations have their origin in you and be directed to your glory. logo-small

Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

At the conclusion of every Mass we are sent, sometimes even with the words, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” We are a people on the move, a living Body that desires constantly to grow; we are chosen by God, anointed with His love, to bring good news to all. Jesus promised to equip us for this mission, and assures us that we do not labor alone or unsupported. He tells us not only that the seeds we sow will respond differently according to the hearts we encounter, but that His Word must first grow in our hearts. We are the light of the world, alight with the fire of God’s love; even a small spark can set a forest ablaze.

This mission, this task which Christ has entrusted to us, can be daunting; it is daunting. We are striving to labor with Christ for the salvation of souls, with our own salvation still being worked out at the same time. We may find ourselves completely overwhelmed, helpless, or so discouraged at our failures–actual or perceived–that we are tempted to despair, and giving up altogether seems like our only alternative.

When the storms of discouragement rage around us, when our culture seems unyielding or even hostile to the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15), when it seems we are failing left and right and the fruit we desire to lay at our Lord’s feet has not grown, do not be afraid. You might come into a dark time of struggle in your faith and wonder, “Where are you, Jesus?”

Our Gospel today ought to bring us great consolation: Jesus never abandons us. Even should He be asleep, He is yet there; our God is a God that does not slumber (Psalm 121:4) and always guards us. Even when the storm arose at sea and His friends feared disaster, what could befall them if Jesus was there, asleep or otherwise? When God is silent in our lives, when it seems we are abandoned, we must have faith that we are not alone. We are the children of the perfect Father who says, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15) We are members of the Body of Christ; can He forget Himself? We are anointed with the Spirit of God; our Baptism, our Confirmation cannot be undone. God’s silence does not equal His absence; He is there.

Do not fear, then, whatever the world throws at your faith, whatever holds you back from serving the Lord and continuing His mission. His Word never returns to Him without effect (Isaiah 55:11), and that impulse to grow and bear fruit, should we seek to suppress it, will become like a fire in our heart that cannot be ignored. (Jeremiah 20:9) Be not afraid! God is with you; love Him, serve Him as best you are able, and know that all success, all fruit comes about by His grace, even if it seems we have failed. The storms of opposition may blow against you, but the Lord of Heaven and Earth is there with you, and He will not leave. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Jacob Boddicker, S.J.

Mary, Ark of the New Covenant

I fear the class left  with some uncertainty 2012-11-25 14.57.16about Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant when she was carrying Jesus in her womb. So I decided to give you more scriptures to read that help explain the concept.

First, those who have not had The Great Adventure Bible Study need to know that in the Old Testament, God gently and graciously taught His Chosen People about Himself gradually building up from basic concepts to readiness for accepting  the Messiah. They lived in a world where every other tribe worshipped idols and maintained religious practices that degraded the participants and led to constant turmoil.

So He began at the kindergarten level by revealing Himself in small ways to Adam, Noah, and Abraham. Then each new interaction with a member of his family revealed a little more about God and Truth. Generations later, the newly freed slaves who crossed the Red Sea on foot, who built the tabernacle and who received the Ten Commandments were still in the early primary grades of His School.

They were told to build The Ark of the Covenant for the Holy of Holies section of the tabernacle with three items kept inside: a golden jar of manna that miraculously stayed fresh, Aaron’s rod that budded (to reveal who was the real High Priest), and the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them. This let them know that the ark, its contents, and the Mercy Seat over it were supremely holy and revealed God in a special way.

Hebrews 9:4 sums it up in the New Testament: In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;

These items taught them about God’s nature. We usually refer to such Old Testament revelations as types. The manna provided miraculous food for the wanderers for forty years that kept them healthy as they participated in “God’s Fitness Camp.” This type taught them that they could depend of God for practical necessities of life.

Aaron’s rod showed them in an undeniable, physical way exactly whom God had appointed to lead them spiritually as they journeyed to the Promised Land. So they could quit lobbying for leadership roles and instead look for, appreciate, and obey the person that God chose for them. And the stone tablets, which the Jews often call the Ten Words, showed them how to live in a happy, satisfying, and productive way here on earth.

During the rest of the Old Testament: the period of the Judges, the Kingdom period, and the diaspora, they learned more and more. They even began to look for a Messiah and His kingdom.

With our 20-20 hindsight, we can see that as Mary carried Jesus before birth, she also carried: the Bread of Life, the Great High Priest, and the Word of God. The Messiah embodied or fulfilled those types from the first Ark in Himself. And He offers to freely share their godly graces with those who ask and believe.

Bread of Life:

  • Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat. John 6:31
  • Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:3

 Aaron’s Rod that Budded or Spiritual Authority: Hebrews 4:14-16

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The Ten Commandments or The Ten Words: John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.