It’s the End of the World as We Know It (A Gospel Reflection for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time)

“…do not be terrified; for such things must happen first”

 
These words from Jesus, spoken in the midst of truly unsettling, apocalyptic-seeming predictions, are at once calming and baffling. He tells us all about the many awful things that will happen throughout human history – war, betrayal, natural disaster, the destruction of those things which our societies hold most sacred – and then basically tells us that we should relax anyway. Is He telling us merely to trust Him? Is He just insensitive to our plight?
I think it goes deeper than either option. In actuality, Jesus wants us to focus on the right things, regardless of what else is going on. Remember, he’s speaking to an audience ringing their hands over whether or not the liturgical salad fork is in the right spot. This is a people easily distracted by the pettiness of life, and Jesus is basically saying, “buckle up, fam. If this stresses you out, it’s gonna get a lot worse.”
But Jesus isn’t just trying to scare us straight, so to speak. What Jesus wants us to focus on instead, it seems, is the person right in front of us. How many of us, like the Lord’s audience in this Gospel, fret over trivial things while forgetting about what matters right now? We ask, “What if my kid doesn’t turn out right?” But Jesus asks, “How does your kid need to be shown love right now?” We ask, “What if I never get what I need from my spouse?” He asks, “But how can you show more love to your spouse right now?” We ask, “Will I be stuck in this dead end job forever?” He asks, “How can you use your dead end job to love somebody right in this moment?” To Jesus, it doesn’t matter what’s on the news or what’s falling from the sky or even what evil lies in your neighbor’s heart. What matters to Jesus is loving right now.
His words remind me of my favorite line from The Avengers“Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.” Or my favorite REM song: ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine)’. In a world where every message from the radio, the TV, and even unfortunately the pulpit tells us to worry about something that’s going to supposedly kill us sometime over the next 2-50 years, let’s listen to Jesus instead and ask ourselves: how can I love the person right next to me just a little better right in this moment?

Jacob Popcak, M.A., L.P.C. is an award-winning Catholic artist and a counseling associate of the Pastoral Solutions Institute. He can be contacted through CatholicCounselors.com.

Fear, Men, and The Locked Doors of Our Hearts

Guest post by Dave McClow, Pastoral Solutions Institute

Men are more wired to assess threats than women; maybe that is partly why the disciples hid in fear behind locked doors after Jesus’ crucifixion (see John 20:19-23).  Fear perceives the other as the enemy.  Fear underlies all sin—any attack on the dignity of the human person.  It becomes a problem when we fear the wrong people—like our spouses and kids.  It is not a new problem, since it dates back to the Garden of Eden and the Fall.  In fear, Adam and Eve covered themselves when they understood they could take advantage of each other, and they hid from God in the bushes.

Because God is love, we are a religion of love, as demonstrated by the greatest commandment and a new commandment.  Fear is the opposite of love: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  “Be not afraid” is a thread running throughout Scripture.  And it was a motto, of sorts, of St. John Paul II.

The Locked Doors of Our Hearts

The disciples lived in fear of the Jews, having locked the doors, and it was evening…isn’t this usually when our fears come out?  When we feel fear, we often lock the doors of our hearts, even to loving people, including Jesus.  So what hides behind the locked doors of your hearts?

Jesus appears to the disciples behind those locked doors.  He starts with “Peace be with you,” showing them his hands and side.  I am sure he does this to identify himself; but beyond that, he leads with his wounds.  This is an interesting leadership style, worthy of reflection in a culture that peddles “Never let them see you sweat.”  This motto, ironically, is a perpetual prescription to live in fear of exposure and…to sweat!

Jesus never imposes himself on us.  So we must invite him behind those locked doors of our hearts, where everything is bound and loosed (CCC 2843), into the ugliness where our fears, wounds, and sins have reigned.  For many men, this ugliness is the sin of pornography.  Fear and shame keep us from inviting him in. Satan is the Accuser, but he transfers this job to us, and we tend to cooperate by accusing ourselves!  The Devil’s name means “to separate,” especially from God and others; and separation results from self-accusation.  Freedom is found only in God’s presence.

How Does Jesus Come? 

Once invited, Jesus does not come as a King to judge in power, but as the King who heals—the wounded healer who leads with his wounds.  He comes as Priest to link our fearful hearts to his Father of love, or to Love’s second name, Mercy.  He comes as Prophet not to speak harsh words in love, but to speak the truth of Love Itself to the lies of our fearful hearts.

I imagine him entering my heart, absorbing my fears, pain, and darkness into the wounds in his hands.  But it is not enough to “sweep the house clean,” leaving it vulnerable; it must be filled!  So I imagine the wound in his side that gushed forth the water and blood of our Baptism and the Eucharist, pouring forth his love and mercy, filling the empty space with the fullness of God (cf. Eph. 3:14-21)!  Sometimes I don’t even know what his wounds are absorbing; I just know I calm down and am no longer fearful, and I feel grateful.  And I rejoice as the disciples do!

Loved and Now Challenged!

But he is not done! He continues, “Peace be with you.”  Each time, I understand this more.  Then he stuns with, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  It means we must receive God’s love, as Jesus does—the Father gives himself totally, without reservation, to his Son, an echo of which is heard when the prodigal’s father tells his older son, “Everything I have is yours.”  We are loved first, now challenged.  We must work from love, never for love.

Jesus is sent as priest, prophet, and king, so we are sent as priest, prophet, and king.  We are baptized and made gods—not just adopted, but made sons of the Father through a nature change.  Then we are strengthened with other sacraments.

He is still not done! In his overwhelming generosity, Jesus breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”—Love himself.  Of course the apostles receive a special authority to bind and loose here, but we are also given the Holy Spirit and must receive him to fulfill the challenge of love!

We fear being unlovable in our sins.  So the Father sends his Son in love as priest, prophet, and king.  We must invite him behind the locked doors of our hearts into those shame-filled rooms.  By his wounds, he leads and heals us to receive his peace.  Then he sends us out with the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet, and king to love others as spiritual fathers!  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Does My Husband Have a Right to Sex?

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On her Facebook page, Rose Sweet, who has a wonderful ministry to divorced Catholics, posted the troubling story of a woman whose husband was cheating on her.  The couple’s pastor counseled the wife that her decision to place a moratorium on her sexual relationship with her husband as long as he was cheating on him actually placed an undue burden on her cheating husband and was driving him away further in part, because sex is a “right” of marriage.

A little clarification might be in order. Yes, according to the Church, sex is a “right” of marriage. But the Church defines “right” a little differently than the world does.

To say that sex is a “right” of marriage means that marriage is the right place for people to have sex. It does not mean you have a license to demand sex no matter what.

Marriage is the normative–that is, “right”–place for sexual love to be expressed between a man and a woman. Assuming a healthy, loving respectful relationship, this is true. It is also true, as St. John Paul observed that a couple who does not love, respect and cherish each other could very well commit the sin of adultery even in marriage by using each other as objects rather than loving each other as persons.

Assuming you have a healthy, loving, cherishing relationship, marriage is the right place for sexual love to be shared. If you don’t have that kind of marriage, then you have a right to stop having sex and start learning how to actually love each other.

Older texts on moral theology and canon law tend to use words like “right” and “marital debt” when discussing sex.  These words are technical terms and taking them at face value can lead to a lot of problems.

Properly understood, referring to sex as a debt that husbands and wives owe to each other means that, in a loving marriage, loving spouses do not have a right to withhold sex from each other.  As St Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 7:5

The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another….

All of this means that marriage is the right place for sexual love to be expressed–assuming the couple is living their marriage as the Church defines it. Namely, as an “intimate partnership.” (c.f., Gaudium et Spes).

But there is a deeper debt the married couple owes to each other that precedes sexual union. They owe each other the love, respect, cherishing that characterized their dating relationship—the relationship that continues to serve as the foundation for their marriage. Sex, if you will, is the house that sits on this foundation of love, respect, and cherishing. If the “foundation” (love, respect, and cherishing)  is bad, the “house” (sex)  is unsafe to live in. Why? Because if love, respect, and cherishing are absent, sex stops being sex and becomes mere lust and using. Marriage is no place for lust and use.

No one has a right to abuse someone else. No one owes someone else the “debt” of using them.

To discover more about how you can live the Catholic vision of love and sex in ways that are healthy and fulfilling, check out Holy Sex: The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.

Coming Wed on More2Life: The God Connection (Plus, Win a Free Book! Details Below)

Coming WEDNESDAY on More2Life– The God Connection:  God loves you so much!  He is reaching out to you in so many ways.   Today on More2Life, we’ll look at the ways we can draw closer to God and how to remove the obstacles that stand in our path.

Call in at 877-573-7825 from Noon-1 Eastern (11-Noon Central) with your questions about experiencing God’s love more fully in your daily life.

WIN A FREE BOOK!  (Details below).

Wed Q of the D:  (Two-Fer.  Answer one or both).

1. When are you most aware of God’s love for you?

 

2. What makes you feel disconnected from God?

 

*Win a free book!  Every day you respond to the question of the day your name will be entered in a radio drawing to win a free book from the Popcak Catholic Living Library (over 10 titles in all)!  Again, each day that you respond you will get another chance at winning a free book in the drawing held every Friday on More2Life Radio.

This is a great way to get that title you haven’t read yet, or get a book for a friend who really needs it!  Enter every day to win.  This week’s featured title is:  God Help Me, This Stress is Driving Me Nuts!  Finding Balance Through God’s Grace. 

Winners will be announced on air and contacted by FB message following the drawing Friday afternoon.

 

Can’t get M2L on a Catholic radio station near you? YOU CAN STILL HEAR US! ~ Listen via our FREE AveMariaRadio IPhone or Android App (Check your app store!), ~ Tune in live online at www.avemariaradio.net ~ or catch our archived shows via the M2L Podcast (also at avemariaradio.net)

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip of the Day–Get Marriage-Building Resources

Couples who are marriage masters know that you can’t build a great marriage without great tools.  Today, think about the tools you might need to take you marriage to the next level.  Check out the the library or your local bookstore for a great new relationship book (you don’t even have to agree with everything the author says.  Its about starting a conversation!), reserve your spot on a Marriage Encounter Weekend, check out the cool resources at ForYourMarriage.org.  Do something today that helps you discover some new tools to help make your marriage everything God wants it to be!

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip of the Day, Wed 3/13: Remember Your Spouse!

We are busy with so many things.  Too often, we lack what psychologists call,  “object permanence.”  We walk out the door and our loved ones “disappear.”  We forget our spouse and kids (and they forget us) until we see each other again later that evening, but sometimes we are still to distracted to really connect.  Today, remember your spouse while you are apart.  Do something thoughtful to reach across the chasm.    Pick up some flowers.  Write a little note.  Do that thoughtful task that would make your spouse’s day a little easier.  Give your mate a call to say, “I love you.”  Just because.  Remember your spouse and remind each other that you matter–even when you’re apart.

——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip of the Day, Tuesday 3/12: Make a Decision to Love

We’ve all heard that love is a decision.  Today put that notion into practice.  Imagine the day ahead and the time you will spend with your spouse.  Identify two things that you can do all on your own (i.e., don’t require your spouse’s cooperation or input) that would set the tone for a more loving day.  Will you give her the TV remote?  Make him a nicer-than-usual dinner? Do the dishes without being asked?  Wear that outfit he likes?  Be more patient with those mildly annoying habits?  How will you make a decision to love…today?

——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.

40 Day to A Better Marriage, Monday 3/11: 4 Steps to Becoming a Mindful Spouse

A good marriage is a mindful marriage.  Today, I’m encouraging you to do something small to cultivate a spirit of mindfulness  in your marriage.  Step one?  Read this Faith on the Couch post on what mindfulness is and how it can be a blessing to you life. 

Step Two:  Think about the way you react to your spouse.  Choose one of those less pleasant reactions and ask yourself how you would like to respond instead.  Assume that you would feel just as irritated, annoyed, or frustrated as ever, but you could choose to channel that negative emotion into a healthier, more compassionate response.  What would that response be.

Step Three:  Imagine yourself successfully doing this new thing.  Ask God for the grace to follow through.

Step Four:  Keep practicing.  Mastering your reactions takes time, but the effort will result in a better you and a better marriage.  Keep trying and refining your effort in prayer.

It’s ok to get irritated with your spouse sometimes, but being mindful about how we respond when we’re irritated can spell the difference between being a marriage master…or a marriage disaster.

——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip of the Day, Wed. 3/8–Cultivate a Spirit of Understanding

Couples need to make a million decisions every day.  Most decisions can be made fairly easily, but some decisions require more thought and reflection, especially when husbands and wives don’t see eye-to-eye.  In those times, it can be easy to try to push through the disagreement, to force a conclusion before you really understand where each other is coming from.  But decisions made this way rarely work.  When one spouse feels shut down, it tends to cultivate resentment at best or causes that spouse to undermine the solution at worst, creating a spirit of mutual hostility and distrust.

Today, cultivate a spirit of understanding.  Go out of your way to communicate that your spouse is more important than your agenda.  Before you push your plan or try to press for a decision, take the time to ask questions that help you really understand where your spouse is coming from.  Don’t criticize what they say.  Don’t try to talk them out of it.  Ask questions to help you truly understand what your mate wants and why.  Then, and only then, can you ask your mate to help you think of ways you could address their concerns while considering yours as well.  Chances are, your generosity and commitment to understanding will be rewarded in kind.

Here’s a great reflection by theologian, Romano Guardini, on the virtue of understanding

——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.

40 Days to a Better Marriage Tip of the Day: Thurs 3/7–Share a Laugh!

Life can get a bit tiresome.  The busy-ness and responsibility can wear anyone out.  Today, fight back against the drudgery by making a plan to laugh together.  Watch a funny movie, go to a comedy club, challenge each other to find the funniest joke-of-the-day (for a bonus, the one with the funniest joke wins a backrub)!

Celebrate the virtue of joy.  Help each other laugh at the craziness of life and discover yet another way you are God’s gifts to one another.

 

——For the next 40 days, M2L will offer a tip-a-day for improving your marriage. For more help creating an exceptional marriage, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about Catholic tele-counseling services. 740-266-6461.  And Check out more great marriage-building ideas in For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.