This week’s memory verse: So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.Matthew 7:17-18

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, draw me to the Tree-of-Life. Grant that I may chop down and destroy every dead tree in my life.

Specks, logs, planks,
whole trees.

“How can you say to another believer, ‘Friend, let me take the piece of sawdust out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer’s eye.”

Today marks the last Sunday of the Pre-Lenten season. It confronts us with the hardest challenge we can face in life, the tendency to be judgmental toward others while simultaneously failing to perceive our sins and failings.

There are two keys here. First, how easy it is to perceive the failings in another, and to turn that perception into an accusation. How hurtful and damaging to the target. Beyond that, how often we fail to understand the reality behind another person’s perceived weaknesses. We never know the real reason, the hurt, the pain, the negative experience behind another’s minor failing.

Second, it really isn’t that we fail to see the plank – the hugeness of failings – in our lives. They are exactly huge because they are so close to us. My unbridled passions, lusts, desires, cruelties – huge!

Jesus really hits home in calling us hypocrites exactly because we already know our failings. We see them clearly every day – and yet we turn to hurt another. Wow!

In preparation for Lent we are called to attack the log, the plank, that huge dead tree in the middle of our lives. We are called into a holy season that is to be filled with action. We aren’t to go into a solitary cell, sit quietly, and ponder our dead tree. We are to take action, cutting it down and replacing it with the most life-giving tree of all – the Cross.

Jesus is calling us to go deep in removing that dead tree. The dead tree, the dead roots, all must go. Then we will come to conversion so that we “bear good fruit.” We are then that good man [who] out of the good treasure of his heart produces good. Then people will know who we are for out of the godly abundance of the heart will our mouths speak.

There are two kinds of trees we can focus on. We can live in a forest of death and accusation or come to the Tree of Life. Throughout Lent we are going to focus on getting back to the Life tree – to Eden, that paradise God has prepared for us. The place of joy, peace, and true life.

In Eden there are no dead trees, there are no planks, logs, or specks. We do not look at a another and pass judgment. We see in them Jesus and another self. If we perceive in them hurt, pain, or negative experience we do not accuse. Rather we actively heal them. We gather them under and into the life-giving tree. Jesus has opened the door to Eden for us. Let us go to the Life tree.

Back on the early newsletter streak.

February is here and we will quickly transition from Pre-Lent to Lent. As we begin this journey we naturally ask, why increase prayer, sacrifice more, be in church more, extend myself to others more? What will come out of this? Won’t I just end up grumpy? God has a game plan, an end game in mind for us. Lent helps us to reconnect to that plan, to wash ourselves clean of everything that clouds our vision of the Paradise He has promised us and has provided to us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Lent is about recapturing Eden.

February – we do Lentopoly and celebrate some really special events. There’s a Confirmation, the Bishop’s attendance at out annual parish meeting on February 14th (want to ask a question, here’s your chance). There is an invitation to a Polish Mardis Gras celebration. Lots of other great stuff too. Also, important news on CONVO 2016 and this Special Year Reverence Across our Holy Church.

You may view and download a copy of our February 2016 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ1 Thessalonians 5:9

1/31 – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2/1 – Proverbs 1:5
2/2 – 2 John 1:9
2/3 – Proverbs 4:5-6
2/4 – Colossians 2:8
2/5 – Hebrews 4:12
2/6 – Psalm 25:4-5

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, You have taught us how we are to live. Grant me the grace to make Your way my way.

A series of
principles.

“Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Many remember the old adage – how do you know the proper spelling of the word principal? It is based on the context. A school principal is your pal. Principles are sets of moral rules, values, or guiding beliefs. Today we hear Jesus’ call to live God’s principles.

Today’s gospel is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount (actually in the Gospel according to St. Luke, delivered on a Plain). Last week, Jesus talked about the beatitudes, the way life should be lived – a set of values that are in touch and consistent with God’s desires for our lives. Today, Jesus sets forth a group of principles – ways of conducting our life so that they exemplify and put the beatitudes into action.

The funny thing about principles is that anyone can develop them. There are all kinds of common sense sayings, adages, and aphorisms that people use every day. As the season of politics and elections drones on we will regularly hear “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We laugh, shake it off and move on. We don’t put a lot of this into action by making essential changes in our politics.

We cannot do so with Jesus’ principles. As we continue our Pre-Lenten journey we are called to renew our effort to take Jesus’ principles to heart and engrain them in our everyday lives. We need to make essential changes in our lives so that Jesus’ principles are dearer to us than anything. Do not judge others’ sins and speak good words to all. Pre-Lent will help us see where we fall short of the excellence Jesus calls us to so that in Lent we can work diligently to fix our life system. His call wasn’t just a few words of common wisdom proclaimed on the Mount or on a Plain. His principles are so much more than adages – more than nice or instructive words. They are a direct key to be used so we live in oneness with God and obtain His promises, His blessings. So we bear good fruit!

Jesus’ principles are not the way life “should” be lived, but the way His disciples (that’s us) must live. Fixing our inner system leads to finding true joy on Easter – real blessing. We will then be found standing with those who are blessed in the Father’s eyes forever.

This week’s memory verse: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.1 Corinthians 2:14

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me Your graces in this season of preparation so that I might perceive Your reality clearly.

Time for a gut
check, really.

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Gut check: an evaluation or test of a person’s resolve, commitment, or priorities, typically with respect to a particular course of action.

Today we enter the Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. This is prime time to do a gut check. What do we believe and why do we believe it?

St. Paul confronted this with the people of Corinth.

Some people in the Church at Corinth claimed there was no resurrection from the dead. They could not reason or see how dead people could possibly come back.

They were seeing with worldly eyes and were thinking with worldly reasoning.

Paul pointed out the fact that the faith they accepted was in the Jesus that was preached to them. Eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus preached to them. They were lucky enough to get a first-hand account from those who witnessed the resurrection; the resurrection of the One who also raised Lazarus, the widow’s son, and Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Logically, if Christ rose from the dead, so shall we. If resurrection was impossible then Christ did not rise from the dead. If He did not rise, what’s the point of our belief? We are not saved, Jesus was nothing more than a common man, and dead is dead.

The very foundation of Christianity – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – is make believe and we are wasting our time believing in Him, worshipping Him, and following His good news.

St. Paul emphatically states: in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. What we believe is true as seen and reported and worthy of belief. Not just that, but what we believe is also our destiny. It is the promise we hold onto.

As we begin the Pre-Lenten season let us also do a ‘gut check.’ When we kneel, what is that about? When we receive, Who do we receive? Who gave us the promises we hold onto? Our gut should tell us God made real in our lives.

We have this chance to check in, to reflect, and to see with heavenly eyes. Getting back to basics will make our Lenten journey more fruitful. Our ‘gut check’ brings us back to the most basic message of all. Jesus is real and all He said and did is real. His reality, His victory, His joy, like the resurrection is ours too – really!

This week’s memory verse: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” — 1 Peter 3:8

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that all who follow You may join together in one faith and may continue to express Your gospel as the Spirit prompts.

Yesterday
was it easier?

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short…

I was listening to the song “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics.
McCartney wonders why his girl has gone away. Yesterday was so much easier, happier:

“Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday”

McCartney wants to go back to yesterday, fix his mistake. He blames his angst on having “said something wrong.”

Was that all there was to it, saying something wrong ruined a relationship? Based on experience we could all say that we doubt that. Certainly friends, husbands, wives, children, and co-workers have said something wrong at one time or another. If that were all it took to destroy a relationship we wouldn’t have marriages, family members, friends, or co-workers. We would all be alone!

Looking a little deeper we see McCartney saying that love was a game to play – yesterday. Love was easy and fun.

Some would comment that since that song was written our concept of love has changed. It is supposed to be about romance, candlelight, fun in… all the easy games to play. When that ends, when the passion fades, when the candlelight is no more than melted wax, and the flowers have dried out we move onto the next game.

Perhaps that was McCartney’s mistake. His words weren’t a wrong statement, saying something wrong in and of itself. Perhaps, and likely, his words were just a bit too transparent and shallow. Hey honey, this is fun, this is a great game – but I’m not serious.

Jesus is with a young couple. Certainly this was a joyous moment in their lives. They have entered into a lifelong commitment – not just a game. They had friends and family – all who cared were with them. All are celebrating. And, the problems didn’t wait until tomorrow – they were here today. The dawn would bring the realization that they had failed in their first task as hosts – tomorrow’s yesterday was turning into a failure. Then Jesus steps in. His Father’s plan is in action. His power was revealed to His disciples. Tomorrow’s yesterday was saved. The best wine was served.

Letting Jesus into our lives, our marriages and relationships makes each day more than a game. His first miracle becomes a recurring miracle. Each day in Jesus has true meaning, joy, and the fullness of real and eternal love – the best.