Pastor Bob delivered a beautiful homily at church today; I will try to recreate the message he shared with us.
He reflected on the past three Sundays Readings and Gospels which give the accounts of Jesus' visits with his disciples after his resurrection and before his ascension into Heaven.
He noted that Jesus did not go into the teachings of his past three year' ministry with his disciples, reviewing with them all the facets of the faith he spoke through his Father. It would seem he would warn them or remind them of parables addressing the continual harassment by the scribes and Pharisees who constantly badgered him.
Instead, Jesus spoke simply to the disciples of the Father, his Love , Peace and the Holy Spirit. Twice Jesus told them, "If you love me, you will 'keep' my words" and the Father will reward that person by making his home with them.
When we become like Christ, we automatically do the right thing.
Then he told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would dwell within them and would enable them to remember the words and incidences of Jesus and to record them for future posterity. The promised Holy Spirit would enable the apostles to discern the truth, clarify the doctrine and encourage the new believers in faith, the Gentiles.
The priest explained how in the First Reading, some were teaching that 'unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." (Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29.) They were preaching from their previous teachings. Even Paul at one time believed that all new believers should convert to Judaism before they became Christians, relying on previous teachings. With aid of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas sent men out to maintain Jesus' doctrinal purity.
Today is the same: we are guided by the Holy Spirit to maintain doctrinal purity by the Magisterium, the Teaching Authority of the Church. It consists of the Pope and Bishops. Christ promised to protect the teaching of the Church: "He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you, rejects me, he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me". (Luke 10.16)
In the Gospel Reading today (John 14:23-29) Jesus tells us, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me."
"These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
Simple faith - simple words. Do not add or take away from them ~ This is our faith:
Faith is defined in Wikipedia as "Faith is hope, belief or trust in an entity or idea that is not based on material proof." Martin Luther King, Jr. defines it as: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
Many persons receive their personal faith in God or a higher power through being handed down through the generations in their families. When family unity is strong or intact, the beliefs of their family and extended family generally follow the next generations' belief system. Some families believe in 'let them choose faith themselves when they are older', but faith is hard to establish without early seeds of planting the basics of what faith is. You can't just 'choose' something you've never experienced. Many people with no faith want to know how to get it or help them get it. It's simply opening your heart to acceptance of it. A blueprint or background helps them understand better.
Whatever the denomination or religious belief the family follows, it usually encompasses rituals, beliefs, and traditions based on reverence, devotion, loyalty to beliefs, good works and lifestyles. There are numerous faiths in our world, and my aim here is to appeal to parents to instill their own faith, or beliefs or good values or morality and ethics to their children. If these virtues are learned as a child, the seeds will be planted and take root. A conscience will develop to the good or virtues in life and avoid the bad.
How can parents do this? By teaching them the values they themselves learned as children and share these gifts with their children when they are very young. Talk to your kids about what is right and what is wrong. Foster friendships with families whose family life you respect and want to imitate. Take your kids to a place of worship. Children love the unity of sharing faith with family and this unity rewards all family members.
We live in a fast-changing world. Technology can be a good thing and sometimes it is not. Everything is speeded up; even games. Especially video games. A friend mentioned to me that her grandchildren get bored with movies like Bambi, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp - the Disney Classics, etc. because they are 'boring', 'too slow', and 'not exciting. They have missed the 'messages' these movies taught about loyalty, love, and good vs. evil.
These values need to be taught in the home, but many times, today's families are fractured; perhaps led by a single parent, or perhaps some families are caught up in endless activities, working and school sports or clubs.
So where do the younger generations learn about morality, ethics, respect, and fair play if everyone is too busy to be role models or teach them? From Hollywood and pop stars? Our politicians? Who ARE our kids' role models? Are you? Do you teach them about spirituality, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, Rules to Live By or any doctrines? How will they learn to love one another, forgive others, and respect others? By your example and by your faith.
Where do they learn about bullying, hurting people who they 'don't like' or thinking about violence in the school to get back at someone. Did they ever learn that murder is wrong or revengeful gossiping can hurt people or it isn't right to publicly insult people on Facebook that some kids have committed suicide? Or teaching them that wanting and needing every new tech device or latest fad negates thinking about helping someone less fortunate than themselves. Are they Numero Uno in all they do? If so, chances are, they always will be, if they are not taught otherwise. And that will affect their parents' future relationships with them.
Most schools don't teach social skills or moral values. Or how to play fair, love fair or how not to priortize their interests to the detriment of others.
Your house of faith, temple, or churches do teach these values. Bring your kids to your house of worship. Yes, sometimes small children get cranky or noisy, but they quickly adapt. And when they grow up will probably take their own kids. You will reap a bond with your children through your common beliefs and traditions. Your faith will help your family through turbulent times, hardships and personal malfunctions. It is sorely needed today and sorely absent.
Faith brings people and families together. A family that prays together usually stays together. Couples, too. If a person disappoints you, knowing that you share the same faith can bring you close again. If a person deeply loves you, faith can bring you even more the best joy in life you've ever had. If you are alone, faith can provide a path and blessings that you never experienced. Faith isn't a crutch or a substitute - it's a blessing that will stay with you forever and will multiply.
"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." ~Galatians 6:7 Sow some good seeds today and plant them in your children. They will become the fruits of your labor and you will all be blessed.
Some of us have the gift or talent to express sympathy easily to others. Gestures and words are expertly expressed and people are comforted.
Many others dread seeing the survivor(s) at a viewing or even for the first time after a death occurs. They feel awkward, not knowing quite what to say in offering condolences. It is difficult and sometimes emotional to see someone who is in grief and it can makes us feel uncomfortable especially when we are not sure of what to do or say.
I used to feel that way until I experienced grief myself and some time afterwards, joined a bereavement group at our church. At these meetings, we would have a speaker's presentation on how to adjust to grief or sometimes have individuals express their personal experiences. Comfort, presence and listening are key.
You may find yourself in a bereavement situationif you ever have to comfort someone who has a death in their family; and/or if you desire or are asked to help others work their way through grief. Here are ten ways to offer condolences or to help someone heal:
• You might say, "I'm sorry"; or "I'm sorry for your loss", or say a kind word about the deceased . . . .
When you don't know what to say, say 'nothing'. This was the number 1 rule in bereavement training. There's not much you can say anyway to relieve their loss. Let them talk and get their feelings and emotions expressed. Your presence, your caring and your listening is balm to a griever. If you are a hugger, this is a good time to give a hug or hold their hand or put your arm around their shoulder. Touching is healing. If they aren't touchers, you'll know; back off and let them set the pace.
• never say 'it's for the best' or 'they're in a better place' or 'they've lived a long life' . . . .
We learned that the bereaved are grieving for a lost loved one and they do not think it was for the best - even if the beloved was ill. They want them back on earth and don't want to know they are in a better place. If it is an elderly person who died, they don't want to hear 'he lived a long life' -- they want to keep a loved one as long as they can and it's never long enough.
• never say it was God's will for them . . . .
We don't know what God's will was for them. God doesn't plan accidents or cause cancer. Death is a life event that will happen to everyone. To say that God willed it, isn't going to comfort anyone. It may even cause anger at God and faith is needed more than ever when someone you love dies. Don't say it was God's will to a couple who has lost a child either in stillbirth or a miscarriage. A couple who may have finally gotten pregnant after trying a long time, and have it end in miscarriage or a stillbirth after nine months will feel the loss tremendously and it is not comforting to say it is God's will or it is for the best. It certainly is not for them. It's a devastating loss.
• encourage them to join a support group or or seek someone who has experienced a similar event . . . .
Perhaps you can suggest they join a support group. There are many kinds of support groups available through churches or the newspapers. Losing Someone, Living Alone, Widow/Widower's seminars offer multiple support groups. People gain strength when they know someone else went through what they did and survived. Although 'misery loves company' is a cliche - it has truth to it. You may even mail or drop off announcements of such groups.
• encourage him or her to speak about their loss and emotions with someone . . . .
Sometimes a family or close friend may not be the best choice for grievers to talk to; they may be experiencing grief themselves. It is not uncommon for people to have purged their grief with a stranger they hardly knew. If they have trouble verbally expressing themselves, you may suggest writing a letter to the deceased telling them things they might have said or didn't say; or any regrets they have.
• visit or stop by occasionally even for a few minutes . . . .
It is uplifting for them if you visit bereaved persons, especially widows or widowers, who now spend time alone. Bring a small gift, even a book of additional support or a magazine on bereavement. They will know they are not alone; others are going through similar losses. And they will enjoy the break.
• get them out of the house and go for a walk . . . .
The bereaved sometimes get motionless in their grief and stay at home. Offer to go for a walk with her - walking is good for depression and releases endorphins, a group of chemicals produced in the brain that reduce pain and improve mood. It might allow her to open up to release some pent up feelings while walking and feeling companionship. Remember - caring, presence and espcially listening.
• calendar and note the birthday and anniversary dates of the deceased . . . .
Their survivors feel the loss especially on these dates and may experience setbacks in their healing. Remember to call them with an uplifting call those days. You don't have to mention the date, but, if they do, give them reassurance or if in person, give them a hug. Holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukah, etc., are very hard for the survivors, especially if it was a person who lived with them. Try to include them or their family in some way, either by phone, mail or in person to let them know they are being thought of. Love is always welcome.
• suggest a physical with a physician and/or a visit to a therapist if the survivor is having difficulty adjusting and seems to be backsliding more than moving forward . . . .
Unresolved grief can cause depression or even suicidal tendencies. If you notice during visiting that the survivor seems distracted, unkempt, depressed or not themselves, be a friend and tell a family member or gently suggest if you could take them to see a doctor.
• offer to take them to church . . . .
Since death usually raises spiritual issues, and people are either strengthened in their faith or are turned off and angry at God, offer to join them in prayer services at your church or their place of worship. You may offer to read Scripture or passages in the Bible together. If you share faith with them, they may share their sorrow with God, the Great Comforter. Let it be their choice.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
We live in an ultra-busy world. Technology gets us there faster, enables us to work faster, gives us computers, fax machines, cell phones, our Blackberry, iPods, notebooks - everything is speeded up so we can dance as fast as we can. Sometimes, economically, we have to work 2 jobs or both partners work; life is entangled. We’re all on roller skates. There’s barely enough time to do all we have to do - who has time to give a whole day and put it aside and keep it holy?
Question: Who has time for faith? How do I get faith? I’d like to have faith, but where and how do you get it?
Answer: You can start, get and keep faith by keeping the Sabbath holy. At the least, most faiths have services for an hour on Saturday or Sunday. This is time for regrouping of family; renewal of faith and refreshment. Keeping the Sabbath sets the pace for a ’day of rest’ be it spending a couple of hours ’together’ and/or awareness of God at least one day of the week. Some of us have to work on the weekends, but there are services during the week - as a day of rest- or at least a sharing of a Scripture over breakfast or dinner or watch a spiritual TV show to ‘keep a day holy’.
Faith begins and grows with God's Word, the Bible. Some find Scripture hard to read and understand. Joining a Bible class may aid you. For those who get frustrated easily, they can start with a New American Bible or a Good News Bible which is easier to understand. Sometimes reading the New Testament and/or Jesus' words, usually in red or bold, is an incentive to pursue the Bible as a whole entity.
Question: What is Sabbath?
Answer: Sabbath is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday.
It is one of the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God.
Question: Why should we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?
Answer: Sabbath is a sign in respect for the day during which God rested after having completed Creation in six days (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8).
The Bible tells us it is a weekly day of rest and time of worship. It is observed in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in several other faiths.
It is true today that many families have broken the tradition of keeping the Sabbath holy. Many families are Easter/Christmas/Channukah families and do not attend services the rest of the year. Many churches are attended by mostly seniors and children making rites in their faith, but young people, young mothers and fathers are sorely absent. And once the children finish their rites, they disappear from church with their families.
When folks ask me, ‘how did you get your faith’, or ‘how can I get faith’ - I tell them to attend a church, temple or place of worship. There are many different denominational churches or temples like there are many people, and it’s important to go to one where there’s a good fit for your beliefs. Sermons, homilies and services should provide direction and instructions from the Bible. Worship communities help bridge the gap between the Bible and today’s world and how we apply it to our lives.
A person or family gets used to church very easily - it becomes a habit or ritual - going as a unit to worship or learn about God and His Word. Community of church are the people that attend church with you who can be tremendous helpmates in learning about God or sharing in life’s events with you.
He gives us each week of our lives; why not give Him one hour of it? Bring your mate and family. Parents: It is the best gift you can give your children.