Embrace Hope

Embrace Hope

What are you waiting for?

Don’t you wish to be blessed?

What should you do?

Put your hope in God, Allah, Brahma, or Dao.

Feel the warmth in knowing the Divine.

Make your path straight in seeking the light.

And embrace the celestial love that’s all embracing.

You’re sons and daughters of the Most High.

You’ve to love your neighbor as yourself.

You’ve to walk steadfast in faith.

And you’ll be greeted by the Almighty One.

It isn’t any use being selfish in life.

Share the joy you encounter with others.

And foster goodness with those you encounter.

So reach out to those that are lonely.

It’s the dawning of hope that counts.

It entangles all difficulties that seek to entrap you.

So let loose and rise like a star with brilliance.

These gifts bear incredible blessings.

“Divine Majesty, you’ve blessed us with many gifts.  Let our hope and joys of the future surround us like the brilliance of the sun.”

Amen

The Bread of Life

Jesus gave thanks, consecrated the bread and wine, and presented his body and blood as spiritual nourishment to his apostles, and for the salvation of all (Jn. 6:53-58).  This Eucharist renews the same sacrifice Christ made upon the cross.  The ritual sacrifice under the Old Law was the sign of the covenant between God and his people.  In the New Testament the sacrifice achieves perfection through Christ.  This Eucharist is therefore celebrated as a memorial of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  At the Mass Christ is sacramentally present.  He offers his sacrifice in the union with the church; for this reason we call the Eucharist the sacrifice of the church.

The Eucharist is a Sacrament

The Eucharist is a sacrament because Christ offers himself to the Father in the Mass just as he did on the cross, but the offering is made through the consecratory action of the priest.

What does the Eucharist do?

  1. Unites the recipient to Christ,
  2. Gives life – “a true food” (Jn. 6:54),
  3. Shares in the life of Christ – eternal life (Jn. 6:58; Mt. 5:23-24; Jn. 3:19-24),
  4. Builds up Christ’s mystical body – the church (1 Cor. 10:16-17; Jn. 17:2021),
  5. And serves as a heavenly banquet (1 Cor. 11:26; Mt. 26:29; Lk. 14:16; 2 Pet. 3:13).

Scott Hahn’s Catholic Bible Dictionary explained that the Eucharist is also known as the Lord’s Supper.  This is a Christian sacrament that honors the actions of Jesus at the last supper.  It is reported in all the Synoptic Gospels that Jesus took bread and blessed it (Mk. 14:22-24).  This partaking of the Eucharist is called Holy Communion.  In Greek eucharistia means “thanksgiving” – the sacrament in which Christ is really present under the appearances of bread and wine.  Other names for the Eucharist are:  Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the table of the Lord, the breaking of the bread, the unbloody sacrifice, our daily bread, the most blessed sacrament, the sacrifice of praise, and agape.  However the Eucharist is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, and a paschal banquet.

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Forgiveness

To be emancipated from evil is a great blessing.  This is when people are pardoned for their sins.  Amazingly this happens for those sins which are great or small, and with Christ that’s the end of the matter.  It’s however known that some who lack faith hold on to their guilt disbelieving our Lord has really forgiven them.  But God loves us even as sinners.  There’s no prejudice with him, and with repentance our guilt is washed away.

William Pollard (1828–1893), an English Quaker observed, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand.  The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”  Forgiveness for one’s sins is like that.  Although yesterday sins are forgiven people must repent today regardless how good they think they are. We continually sin and have to ask for forgiveness again and again.

Being Afflicted

In some way we all suffer.  This is natural since we live by the flesh.  Christians therefore always have to seek God’s mercy.  Their motivation for doing so is to receive forgiveness and Christ’s divine love.  With these gifts they are blessed by a living and forgiving God.  When relief comes we’re spiritually enriched. 

Emma Goldman (1869–1940), a Lithuanian-born anarchist wrote, “On rare occasions one does hear of a miraculous case of a married couple falling in love after marriage, but on close examination, it will be found that it is a mere adjustment to the inevitable.”  Is such love found after marriage? Imagine couples marrying in spite of knowing each other’s shortcomings.  Such individuals eventually find love which at first is elusive.

Not Worthy

We shouldn’t consider ourselves unworthy of pardon.  Why put on blinders and not receive this precious gift from Christ?  Our sins don’t matter, for regardless how desperate is our case we can still call on the Lord.  Even if we believe we’re utterly unworthy. We may even feel we’re the greatest sinners, and he’ll welcome us back.  Isn’t that amazing? 

George Herbert (1593–1633), a Welsh-born Anglican priest prayed, “Throw away thy rod, throw away thy wrath; O my God, take the gentle path.”  This was Herbert’s plea to God our Savior, and should be ours.  Christians are happier after receiving God’s forgiveness.

God’s Gifts

At points in our lives we may wallow in the dust.  However we must still be optimistic about our lives.  Being forgiven by God sustains our joy found only in Christ.  We ought to accept the gifts of God’s Kingdom through reconciliation.  It’s for people wishing to be emancipated from evil, finding grace, and being blessed with eternal bliss.

Jack Layton (1950–2011), a Canadian politician said, “My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world.”  That’s how believers ought to see forgiveness – its power, love, hope, and optimism.

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God’s Divine Love

With understanding people show differences in the way they love.  Some religious types have committed themselves to missionary love.  Their actions embody God’s mercy, and bring healing into a broken world.  This is how some Christians share the good news taught in the Gospels.  Margaret D. Nadauld (b. 1944), the eleventh general president of the Young Women Organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote, “Our outward appearance is a reflection of what are on the inside.  Our lives reflect that which we seek.  And if with all our hearts we truly seek to know the savior and to be more like Him, we shall be, for He is our divine, eternal Brother.”  In seeking to know Christ, and by accepting this love causes believers to embrace his teachings.

But there’s much more to this story according to Ellen G. White (1827–1915), a prolific author and  Christian pioneer of The Seventh-day Adventist Church who said, “In the consequences our limited ideas of the sufferings of Christ, we place a low estimate upon the great work of the atonement.  The glorious plan of man’s salvation was brought about through the infinite love of God the Father.  In this divine plan is seen the most marvelous manifestation of the love of God to the fallen race.”  It’s enlightening to know that God’s love doesn’t discriminate.  Believers live under his protection by loving him, and their neighbors.

Some individuals might ask, “How could people be happy in a broken world?”  Thomas S. Monson (b. 1927), a religious leader and sixteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote, “Finding the real joy of Christians come not in the hurrying and scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts.  We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season.”  This type of happiness is found at all times – not only at Christmas, but when people worship and praise God.

Believers’ love for Christ is revealed when they do volunteer work for the poor and homeless.  As God’s co-creators on earth they bless, uplift those in need, and by doing homage to the risen Christ.  Noam Chromsky (b. 1928), a linguist and social political activist said, “Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above.  They come out of struggles from below.”  A lot depends on how people view their struggles.  It’s best to offer them up to God as gifts.  Hard work is essential, but Christians ought to put their dependence on God, who makes all things possible.  God’s precious gift of love is marvelous and free.  All believers have to do is to seek his blessings, and pursue his will.  Much of what they end up receiving comes through his grace.  This approach should be one of persistence in their belief, and faith in the heavenly Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He’s the Almighty One, who knows all things, and blesses us.  That’s surely is God’s divine love.

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Live Victoriously

Americans live in a fast-paced society.  We’re used to a 24/7 news cycle with instant updates.  Media conglomerates promote “web speed” for professionals and all Americans alike.  Internet surfers become impatient if websites take too long to load.  On social media there are millions and millions who participate in the minute by minute snapshots of life.  On many TV channels images move fast and change rapidly.  Audiences are bombarded with sound bites that are entertaining, but don’t tell the whole story.  News is presented in 15 or 30-second segments like commercials.  Such fare is backed up by weekly polling and telephone interviews to monitor the public’s sentiments.

Radio and TV call-in talk shows demand answers right away, and give callers quick feedback about education, religion, the economy, health, and disasters.  Much of this information is sent via pictures on Smart phones.  Americans are used to cutting corners, logging on, tuning in, and dialing up for services.  We live in an age of instant gratification.  By pressing a few buttons some people use the Grindr app on their cell-phones to find dates.  Around the nation millions stream videos.  DVDs come from Netflix that has more than 8-million mail subscribers.  Shoppers receive services on the same day and there are self-checkout lines in stores that keep customers moving.  Walmart has Walmart-To-Go, and Amazon is known for expedited shopping. People are used to fast foods from drive thru-windows at McDonald’s, Hardee’s and Wendy’s.  

Age of Mediocrity

Critics think that quick fixes might result in nimble thinking.  Educators feel learning takes time, and repetition by students to really get it.  But Americans appear convinced that “snail mail” is out.  They could email friends and coworkers and use instant messaging.  Consumers are used to paying a bit more for overnight shipping.  We have become a society of texting and tweeting.  Some social media accept no more than 140 characters per tweet.  What you have to say, say it fast, and in a sound bite.  To some, dating is speed-dating.  No longer is it required to know a person before deciding on a date.  Gadgets and more gadgets have become the name of the game.  David Duchovny (b. 1960) wrote, “I’m kind of stupid when it comes to gadgets.”  Was Duchovny saying that he has allowed gadgets to rule his life?  Or, does he mean that he’s stupid when it comes to knowing what gadgets could really do?

Since all events are happening so fast it leaves us wondering what’s next.  In trying to multitask are we forming bad habits of dependency on gadgets?  Does our impatience in demanding things now lead to health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity by relying on fast foods?  Must we blame capitalism and consumerism for dishing out these sources faster and faster?  How must we view our dependency on technological devices?  These are surely challenging problems.  A record producer, conductor and 27-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones (b. 1933) said, “I have all the tools and gadgets.  I tell my son, who’s a producer, ‘You never work for the machine; the machine works for you.’”  Is this the lesson we must take away about inventions that keep speeding up our lives?  Should Americans pick and choose from the technological onslaught that works best for them?  But aren’t we failing at this? 

Christian Insights

To Christians being wise should be the key when making decisions about American culture.  Patience is a virtue, but society’s growing impatience could be a bad thing if not checked.  Despite speed everywhere, a believer might be concerned that Americans are heading down the wrong road.  But Christians say, “God is in control.”  Why must they allow ourselves to deteriorate because of demands placed on us by gadgets?  Christians should learn to cultivate patience – the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience.  Daily devotion is essential.  By reflecting and praying for wisdom, seek God’s grace.  By being dedicated to their faith believers are able to discover peace, love, joy and fulfillment.  They know that instant gratification is never the answer to understanding life’s problems.   

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God’s Creation

Make a joyful noise for the gift of our salvation.  Come before him with thanksgiving for the Lord is a great God.  “The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land” (Ps. 95:5).  He has sown light for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.  People must therefore rejoice and give thanks for his holiness.  God has established the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his discretion.  The Lord asked, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?” (Jer. 23:24).  God is the author of life.

An Indian spiritual master Sai Baba (1835–1918), regarded by his devotees as a saint said, “Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God.  Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the nature of God.”  This unity manifests itself in human populations throughout the face of the earth.  From mountain tops to valleys below, how magnificent is our omniscient God!  Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), an Italian Roman Catholic priest wrote, “Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.”  Praise God in meditation.  Let your eyes be opened in knowing the truth of his Word.  These gifts illuminate the earth like stars shining brightly in the night sky.

Meditation of the Invisible

In meditation there are things we should realize about God.  Simone Weil (1909–1943), a French philosopher and Christian mystic said, “We can only know one thing about God – that he is what we are not.  Our wretchedness alone is an image of this.  The more we contemplate it, the more we contemplate him.”  People should learn the Lord’s goodness by discovering him.  It’s by knowing him believers will begin to understand themselves.  This gift is attained by studying the Word.  Eventually there will be a time of reckoning.  Zig Ziglar (1926–2012), an author and motivational speaker wrote, “We hear tears loudly on this side of Heaven.  What we don’t take time to contemplate are the even louder cheers on the other side of death’s valley.”  This is the place where Christian believers will rejoice in the victory won. 

This everlasting joy won’t have people think like Paul Theroux (b. 1941), a travel writer and novelist, who said, “Death is an endless night so awful to contemplate that it can make us love life and value it with such passion that it may be the ultimate cause of all joy and all art.”  Unlike Theroux believers will look forward to the day when they depart this world to be with their Savior in heaven.  This promises to be an extraordinary day beyond their imagination.

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Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

—Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World is a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and even neuroscience.  His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he has become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisions no peace unless there is peace among religions; 3) every religion’s uniqueness; 4) the meaning of religion today—the Dalai Lama sees a religious believer as one who collaborates in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness is working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—of which he has no clue what will happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presents the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He put his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who are Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong was also most pertinent for the 21st century too. Armstrong uses the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it means to live compassionately. She envisioned twelve steps, but thought that such an approach could take a life time. In the introduction to the text readers are introduced to the major faith traditions, and concepts based on compassion.  Later Armstrong weaved these steps carefully by explaining what people ought to do to benefit from them. At each step they are presented with a discussion about how to use each teaching. These compassionate goals were carefully calibrated, and based on the major religions. Although every goal could stand alone, Armstrong was able to integrate the goals of each affirmation with an explanation.

This book was able to relate each topic to contemporary issues. Armstrong recognized all of us have problems with which we are struggling. She explained how important it was for us to transcend the thinking about ourselves. Armstrong wrote that people should reach out to the good and bad aspects of life alike. People should treat others the way they would like to be treated. This dictum should also include our enemies that are suffering just like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her 2008 TED talk on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus her thinking as a religious historian and interfaith advocate on the promulgation of the Golden Rule, and compassionate living in the world.

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Cherished Lives

Christians enjoy living their lives.  They are sure that their walk is blessed, and guided by an Ever-loving Creator.  They meet in fellowship with other believers, and find joy in the Christian teachings.  Joy embraces them because of the Holy Spirit, and they serve others in need.  Robert Pirsig (b. 1928), a writer wrote, “When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any kind of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”  Christian believers aren’t fanatics.  Their ideas are based on biblical teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They aren’t members of cults, embracing their vocation through whim, or by persuasion of charismatic personalities.  Many are sober, humble, and meek at heart.

Authentic Christians have contrite hearts.  Their love reaches out touching everyone and knows no bounds.  They are balanced and fair-minded.  And these gifts come to light by doing volunteer work.  Their support is solid, so when the storms come they could withstand the onslaught.  By caring for others they are models in the community.  Through them great streams of happiness flow.  True Christians are like good seeds planted in fertile soil.  St. Matthew 13:22 stated,  “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.”  But God’s believers are fruitful.  They grow and bear abundantly, for they are pruned by the heavenly gardener to ensure a good harvest.

Christians of Light

Like Christ, Christians are blessed with merciful hearts, and are modeled in his image.  They have a good understanding of the scriptures and are slow to anger.  As brides of Christ’s church they find comfort in fellowship with the flock.  Their ministries are filled with joy, so even when they suffer setbacks their faith grows stronger.  William Shakespeare (1564–1616), renowned English poet, playwright expressed this best through Iago to Roderigo in Othello when he wrote:

How poor are they that ha’ not patience!

What wound did ever heal but by degrees?

Christians should always be patient.  It’s the prize of the race that counts.  Sometimes the going is slow and difficult, but they should persevere.  Never must they succumb to doubts, for through God’s grace they will triumph.

Margaret Mitchell (1900–1949), a journalist with the Atlanta Constitution had Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1936) say, “I’m going to live through this, and when it’s over, I’m never going to be hungry again.  No, nor any of my folks.  If I have to steal or kill – as God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.”  Unlike Mitchell’s depiction a Christian approach should be spiritually guided.  Christians adopt to situations but their message is the same:  “Give your life to Christ, for he died for you on the cross at Calvary.  He resurrected, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father.”  But their testimonies are new every day.  They are forever blessed with knowing the truth about eternal life.

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Children of God

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18: 16-17.  By heeding Jesus Christ’s admonition, we can clearly see that children are featured prominently in God’s plan of redemption.  The key for raising children should be on having them have a spiritual upbringing.  Their parents teach them rules at home that are good and necessary in the community.  Kids are taught in simple ways that are easily understood.  Most children of average intelligence have no problems knowing the dos and don’ts that are taught.  An Italian author Pieto Aretino (1492–1556), who wielded much influence on contemporary arts and politics wrote, “I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”  This saying not only goes for the parents love, but for the relationships with their children.

As our children grow older more goals are set.  In kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school, they are learning about growing up, important steps for cultivating well-rounded personalities.  Parents and teachers enhance their development not only through reading, writing, and arithmetic, but by attending church.  Teachers spend time to explain the merits and demerits of these activities.  They explain why physical exercise is necessary, and how it helps pupils’ emotional health.  In such programs children develop skills for playing, working, and understanding why participation is essential for building community spirit.

Babe Ruth (1895–1948), a baseball player said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together the club won’t be worth a dime.”  Ruth like parents realized that although individual performance is desirable, it’s for the kids to understand that success lies with the team.

 Nutrition & Tests

While growing up as children they are often told, “Drink your milk.  It’s perfect food with proteins and vitamins.”  They hear, “To be strong, you’ve to eat your vegetables.”  In other advice it’s said, “Don’t eat so much candy.  It isn’t good for you.  Watch fruit juices, soda, and be careful about additives.”  Children are warned these ingredients could harm them.  Parents tell them, “You have to get enough sleep and exercise.” These are essential attributes beneficial for their growth and development.  But throughout the children’s lives there will be tests.  Testing at school makes kids anxious concerning if they will pass or fail a class.  In team sports they wonder if they will be good enough players.  And in visiting their doctor parents are concerned if they are healthy.

 Yet, parents and teachers will be amiss if they raise children not knowing about God.  There are many Christian denominations from which a family might choose a faith tradition.  As they attend church with their children they are teaching them some essential lessons about life.  Thomas Paine (1737–1809), an English-American political activist and revolutionary said, “Those who want to recap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it.”  In living in a Christian nation citizens must carry our weight as they live.  They ought to work in the interest of all people including the poor, sick, and destitute.

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Selfishness

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

—Lk. 12:15

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

—Prov. 14:31

Not being selfish is necessary for forgiveness.  People have to be humble, loving, and kind to each other.  Napolean Hill (1883–1970), a self-help author said, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), a Baptist minister and civil rights activist wrote, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

But Kristin Armstrong (b. 1973), a professional road bicycle racer said, “I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing.  I write about generosity because I battle selfishness.  I write about joy because I know sorrow.  I write about faith because I have almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption.  I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.”  Often people learn from others about how to make headway in life.  This is so because there are so many impediments that they have to contend with.  A Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th-5th BC–531 BC) wrote, “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.”

Alveda King (b. 1951), an activist and former state representative from Georgia wrote, “Abortion and racism are both symptoms of a fundamental human error.  The error is thinking that when someone stands in the way of our wants, we can justify getting that person out of our lives.  Abortion and racism stem from the same poisonous root, selfishness.”  And Pope Francis (b. 1936), head of the Catholic Church said, “We have observed that, in society and the world in which we live, selfishness has increased more than love for others, and that men of good will must work, each with his own strengths and expertise, to ensure that love for others increases until it is equal and possibly exceeds love for oneself.”

People could therefore conclude that forgiveness begins with understanding.  This has to be one of the more important goals of our lives.  As Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), a Dominican Scholastic philosopher and theologian wrote, “The poison of selfishness destroys the world.”

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