You are God’s Beloved by Father Daniel Francis
I had the privilege of sitting in St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock, listening to a Redemptorist Priest talk about the love of God. He was so spirit filled as he talked about the incredible love God has for us. People from all faiths attended, and Father Daniel peppered his talk with many jokes so we did a lot of laughing as we contemplated some tough questions. If he ever has a mission anywhere near where you live, I would highly recommend it. It is the first time I ever attended a mission and I really had no idea what to expect. I would attend again! There were four meetings. I got to attend the first 2, the 3rd was snowed out, and during the 4th I was giving my altar Bible study.
Father Daniel mused it had been 8 years since he spoke at St. John’s and he thought about how much life has changed during those 8 years. We got into the dot.com era, we survived 9/11, the headlines have shown priests and ministers being arrested for pedophilia, Martha Stewart went to prison and came out of prison. We have had Wall Street problems, and many of the institutions we used to take for granted are falling apart, for example marriages are falling apart. Our media and entertainment has changed its content so dramatically, schools drive kids to achieve education to attain good jobs – not to obtain education for education’s sake.
The good news is that people are tired of spiritual junk food. They are demanding more from their faith and more from their religion. The # 1 group of Christians in the USA are Catholics with 24.7%. The second largest groups of Christians in the USA are Ex-Catholics. There is a hunger for connection, for a relationship with God in their lives.
If the Church is not speaking the truth and following love, it will fail.
Father Daniel said being Catholic is like a joke (Heather’s comment, he is not implying it is a farce)- you either get it or you don’t. Those who get it will stay Catholic and involved in the face of the things going on in the church and the world. Those who don’t will drop out.
It takes more that just attending Mass and good people to make a person remain active in the Church.
There are many big questions that have to be answered.
When Katrina happened, people wondered about the devastation, why some people lived and others who were good died? Why some sinful people were not hurt, and Christians lost a lot. Why was one church standing and another destroyed? Where is the money to rebuild?
Another big question is when attending a wedding, a single person may wonder, when will that happen to me? When we see a person in a coffin, we can also wonder, when this will happen to me?
Father Daniel told us that unsettling things are not bad. Seeking the answer can lead us to be more grounded in our faith.
We can’t keep the big questions out of Church. God is not afraid of our big questions. If we don’t start with our story, looking at God’s story could be boring.
Father Daniel told us he too has wrestled with big questions. He said many see God as sending down Grace to us (kind of like through tubes) to the earth. And if you are good and do the right things you get more grace, if you don’t do the right things you get less. Sometimes we try to manipulate God. We figure if we go to Mass, say certain prayers, give up certain things, God will give us grace in a situation. God doesn’t dance to our manipulations.
God is life, love, peace. He gives us Grace. We don’t get more grace, we just become more aware of it. If we look we can see God was with us at every moment of life, even when He seemed distant. We will still be in the love of God, even when, at the moment, He has disappointed us and we think we are out of His love.
If we are still thinking of God the way we did when we were a child, that is toxic.
Father Daniel told us his Italian grandmother died when he was 12. He saw his father crying, and what held them together through this sad occasion was faith, family and food. He started asking those big questions. If God sees everything where were you God? Why did his grandmother lie three days on the floor? Didn’t God see her lying on the floor?
He then asked us, “Where do you go when you have suffering in your life?
He said, some people pray three rosaries and ask God to do something. When God doesn’t answer their prayers they conclude, if that’s the way God treats us, why go to church?
Do you have no faith? Or do you think God is always present?
God loves all, he even loves Hitler, your x-wife, Saddam Hussain. There is nowhere you can go to escape God’s love. One Psalm that illustrates this is Psalm 139.
Psalm 139: 1-18 O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.
You can’t go away from God. You can pretend there is no God or that you are away from Him or that He can’t see you, but that is not the truth. So you ask, what about sin? When we choose to say no to life, no to God, it is DIS-grace.
The fundamental relationship in our life is God, and He is with us every moment.
Father Daniel told us we have a tyranny of time. That one time an advance placement student came to his master’s house in a frenzy for there was so much to do. The student came at night and asked the teacher’s advice. The teacher’s answer was to blow the candle out.
Many of us go from drama to drama, and at times the dramas are not even involving real people. The other day Father Daniel overheard a conversation about a family that was splitting, and had a lot of tragedies, only to find out that the people were emphatically discussing a TV serial.
We think we will be happy if we get to the next moment, if we get the next raise, a bigger house, a longer vacation, but that is all an illusion. All we have is NOW. Yes, you do plan for the future, but the only time we can really change is NOW. Many of us live in psychological time, but we can’t let it control our life. Many of us are functioning in the realm of EGO:
E – edge
Satan tried to put doubt in Christ’s mind with asking him, “IF you are the Son of God.” We often think IF we just get to the next big item, IF we get the next thing. But all we have is right now. We are between tomorrow and yesterday.
We seek healing of the past, the tyranny of time, expectation and actuality, and we need to receive these things by GRACE, not by ego.
Happiness is fleeting. Joy is inside. You don’t get more joy, you just use more of what God gave you. Joy is from within.
He gave an example of someone who sinned in their 20’s and something bad happened 30 years later, so she concluded God was punishing her for her sin that she committed when she was 20. She was still seeing God like the eternal policeman, the Santa God who has a list of who is naughty and nice. This is the God of her childhood, and now she needs a more mature relationship with God. We have silly superstitions that we hold onto.
God does not have to punish us for sin, we do that ourselves (Heather’s note: or satan steps in and lends a hand). Evil is its own punishment.
Many come to Church to find someone for a relationship, or to get something from God. They are using God as a means to attain something, but that is not a relationship with God.
He also told us people tend to test the limits of God – what is the most sin I can do before You leave me? What is the least amount of obedience I have to do for You to still love me?
God is always there, but our spiritual ups and downs tend to make us perceive differently. A fish does not ask, “Where’s the water?”
Jesus told people the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is at hand NOW. Bad things will happen. Faith is not a good luck charm or a lucky rabbit’s foot. Faith gets us through the bad times. Faith will not prevent the bad moments.
If your relationship with Jesus is strong, you can get through anything. What is your image of God?
You don’t have to change so God loves you. God loves you, so you change.
God has a sense of humor. What you can’t laugh at you make an idol of. Laughing at ourselves helps us to enjoy life. Laughter brings joy into our lives.
We are not our problems or issues. we are about life.
Father Daniel told us the story about the elderly man whose daughter invited her pastor to talk with her father because her father was talking to himself. The father told the pastor he had a hard time praying, and someone suggested putting a chair across the room from him and imagining Jesus sitting in the chair, and having a conversation with Him. The man started to do that and often did that as he prayed to Jesus. One day the pastor was called and told the man had died. The daughter told him that the most peculiar thing happened, the man had died with his head in the chair next to his bed. The pastor knew the man died with his head in Jesus’ lap.
How real is your faith?
Relationship is not based on law, but it is based on love. It is through the Scriptures that God speaks to us. We want to be people of truth, love and forgiveness.
It was an incredible talk about God’s love. I pray it blessed you, for it sure blessed me!
The Redemptorists have a website that can show you ways to deepen your prayer life and faith. Their website is www.redemptorists.net.
Have a blessed night. Thank you for your prayers about my Bible study, it went very well.
We have tons of ice in our driveway. I do believe in Spring, I do, I do, I do. I will not believe in my icy circumstances.