Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

One of the most well-known parables of Jesus is the parable of the prodigal son. It is a remarkable story of forgiveness and acceptance that we all should better understand. God’s love for us knows no limits and his forgiveness is always available and will be readily given when properly asked for. To help appreciate the grace God offers us through forgiveness, let’s look at this parable in some detail. The parable can be found in Luke, chapter 15, verses 11 through 15. It’s not very long but the depth and beauty of this story and its meaning for us today is vital for our understanding of God’s love for us and his desire to keep us a part of his family.

“There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them”.

By asking for his inheritance this young man was in essence saying “I wish you were dead”. Under normal circumstances, the father’s death would be the only way the son would receive his inheritance. But the father agreed and divided his wealth, giving the son his share.

Don’t we turn our back on God in our lives as well? While we might not wish him dead, we certainly wish he would get out of our lives at times. The way we live our lives sometimes says thank you for your blessings but I’ll use them as I see fit for my own enjoyment. When we turn from God and commit serious sin, we are “killing” our relationship with God. At that point we have willingly told God to leave our presence.

“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.”

We too take the gifts of the father and use them foolishly and wastefully, just as this young man did with his inheritance.

In our society today, those who try to live their lives in recognition of God and the many blessings he has given are looked upon as odd or as a religious fanatic. We are taught by our television, movies, books and examples of supposed heroes that we should “just do it”. Marriage and the covenantal relationship between a man and a woman are one of God’s greatest gifts, but when was the last time you saw a new television series that exemplified a stable family relationship? In far too many cases the relationships that are depicted are adulterous and promiscuous with absolutely no evidence of marriage or fidelity. In fact, in the few cases where a character is recognized as have a moral attitude toward promiscuity and pre-marital sex that person is derided and ridiculed as old-fashioned or just plain stupid.

The same applies in the sports world. There are those who are blessed with athletic abilities far beyond most of us. However, it seems they have no understanding that their abilities are gifts from God. Those who are successful are routinely found to have had numerous affairs while married. In many cases they have violent interactions in their relationships and seem to think they are above the rules simply because they have the talents given by God that have enabled them to be extremely successful. Again, in the few cases where one tries to recognize and thank God for his many gifts, they are seen as out of the mainstream. In many cases they are laughed at and made fun of not only by other players but also the media that covers sports and all the depravity endemic to that profession.

“And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.”

It always seems friends are easy to come by when one has plenty of money and is willing to share it. There are numerous accounts of people who were quite wealthy and readily shared their wealth. They buy cars, homes, and all the newest “toys”, not only for themselves but for all of their supposed friends.Eventually, the money will run out in a lifestyle such as that. When this occurs the friends also run out. You see stories of these people living on food stamps, or homeless, or working in menial jobs such as the one the son in the parable found. Even some of the greatest of professional athletes spend their final years in such a state. They spent their gifts and the money those gifts provided foolishly and wastefully. Once it was gone, all those who supposedly cared for them left them alone and in crisis.

It’s worth noting that the young man was sent to feed the swine. As an Israelite this would have been virtually the worst possible experience. He was continuously unclean because of his proximity to pigs, which were an unclean animal that was not to be touched by the Israelites. Not only was he starving he was completely separated from his own people and his religion.

“But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; treat me as one of your hired hands.'”

How far we fall when we fail to recognize our relationship with God and the tremendous debt we owe him. The young man finally realized his errors and decided to try to change his life. He recognized that he did not deserve the love or benevolence of his father but was willing to be a servant to him. We too have sinned against heaven and before God. We too are unworthy to be called a son by our Father in heaven. We too have lived our lives in such a way as to estrange ourselves from God. Yet God waits with open arms to receive us back into his family, regardless of our sins. We, like the young man, must recognize our faults and sins and truly repent of them. Once we realize how broken our relationship with God is, we can mend it and again become part of God’s family.

“And he arose and came home to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you: I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’

It is noteworthy that the father saw the son returning while he was still far away. He had been watching for him, hoping that he would return. And he was ready to forgive him and accept him as his son once more. If fact, he was eager to reclaim his son and welcome him back into his family.

By the grace of God and the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, we also have the opportunity to experience a home-coming such as this. God is waiting for us with arms open wide, ready to welcome us home. All we need do is acknowledge our sins, and reject them in earnest sorrow and repentance.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7). The choice is ours. God is there, waiting for us to return home. He too will celebrate our return just as the father in the parable celebrated his son’s return.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.

A Sacramental Marriage

A Sacramental Marriage

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:5-6)

“My dear friends, you have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church’s minister and this community.” (Catholic Rite of Marriage)

Of the many vocations of the Church, marriage is by far the most common. Unfortunately, it seems many people don’t look at marriage as a vocation these days. It is rare to see a priest abandon his vocation; Deacons don’t usually resign; Sisters and Brothers rarely call it quits. But marriage has a failure rate near 50%. Catholic marriages, a sacramental covenant of God, suffers a divorce rate just over 21%.

If God cries, I think he must be weeping over what has been done to the sacrament of marriage. Marriage is under attack in today’s society. If you doubt that fact, simply look at the divorce rate, the out-of-wedlock birth rate, the number of people who choose to live together without benefit of marriage, the push to recognize homosexual marriage and the general degradation of human sexuality exhibited virtually everywhere you look.

God created marriage and endowed it with certain characteristics which are necessary to the continued well-being of the human race. Marriage is intended to be the building block of a successful society. It provides a basis for family life and allows for the procreation of children in a safe, nurturing environment. Any society that chooses to disregard the sanctity of a covenantal marriage cannot long survive. Without the loving and giving environment of marriage as intended by God, society risks deterioration into an amoral, selfish environment which cannot long sustain itself.

Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament is filled with references to marriage and its proper use. Even after the fall of man brought about by original sin, the relationship between Adam and Eve remained permanent and fruitful. As a result of their sin, childbirth became painful for the woman, but the joy of motherhood overcame the pain of childbirth and the couple continued in God’s plan for procreation through the marital relationship.

God instructed Noah and his sons to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth”. Marriage and the resulting progeny are to fill the earth. A sacramental marriage is intended to be fruitful, producing children. By its very nature marriage and married love is intended for, in part, for the procreation and education of children and it is in them that it finds its true purpose and glory. To reject this purpose of marriage is to reject the original intent of marriage.

Efforts to redefine marriage as any relationship between any two people as well as the open acceptance of non-marital relationships has had a negative impact on marriage and the civilizing effect it produces in society. The current impetus to consider same sex relationships on an equal basis with marriage is just one more effort by the secular society in which we live to further dismiss and disregard the true meaning of a marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman. Under no other circumstances can a sacramental marriage exist.

However, same sex relationships are not the only, or even the biggest, threat to marriage in our society. A general disregard for the sanctity of the marital relationship throughout society is by far a greater threat to marriage than any one specific action. Indiscriminate sex and living in a sexual relationship with another is not the equivalent of living within the bond of a sacramental marriage regardless of the circumstances. Without the vows and the commitment of marriage, the relationship is sinful at best and seriously disordered and even dangerous at worst. Relationships of this type are frequently associated with violence. These non-marital relationships of all kinds present a serious abuse problem for both the man and woman involved. Children are especially at risk in these relationships. Hardly a week goes by that there isn’t a report of children being physically or sexually assaulted by a Mother’s live-in boyfriend, in many cases resulting in the death of the children. A person who is not willing to enter into a permanent relationship is not worthy of the trust necessary to allow access to innocent children.

The ease and frequency of divorce has also undermined the sanctity of marriage. Some are now even changing the wedding vows to “as long as we both shall love” rather than “as long as we both shall live”. There is a move to redefine marriage as a contract with an expiration date. If either of the partners chooses not to renew it, the contract expires and the marriage is defunct.

When is the last time you saw a series on television that portrayed a healthy marital relationship? Most don’t even include marriage, although there are always numerous references and depictions of sex. If a marriage is portrayed, it’s usually in tatters or is a caricature of a true sacramental marriage. If a character in the series is serious about marriage or morality they are normally portrayed as the “weird” one. The rest of the cast make fun and try any means possible to convert the person to their own secular, anything goes attitude toward sex and marriage. Are you old enough to remember the television shows where marriage was the norm and sex was not in your face from the opening to the closing scene”

Marriage, as it is intended, is more than a relationship between a man and a woman. The marriage vows are taken before God and witnesses for a reason. There are actually three partners to a marriage; a husband, a wife, and God. If the couple will keep in mind the third party to their covenant, they will always have an arbiter for disagreements. Through prayer and love of God and each other they will have a position of strength from which to build and maintain their commitment. If they honor God as part of their marriage, they should also honor each other as members of a holy covenant. If they exclude God from their relationship, they will lose a powerful ally in their married life.

The New Testament, through the teachings of Christ, re-emphasizes the sanctity of marriage. One of the first public appearances of Jesus was at the wedding in Cana. His presence and his miracle of turning water to wine speak to the importance of marriage in God’s eyes. He taught that marriage is permanent and should not be dissolved. “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 1:9) Matthew records the questioning of the Pharisees concerning marriage and divorce. When asked if it was lawful to divorce, Jesus replied, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 1:4-6)

When the Pharisees pressed him about the laws Moses had given concerning divorce, Jesus said “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8) Throughout both the Old and New Testaments there is consistent teaching of the permanence and sanctity of marriage.

If our society is to survive and continue to prosper we must recapture the glory, faithfulness and sanctity of a truly sacramental marriage. We cannot continue to disregard the wishes of God and expect to also continue to receive his blessings. The near total disregard of proper marriage in favor of the many distorted varieties of relationships is condemning us to failure as a people of God. For the sake of our society, our children and our future, we must turn to God and relearn His definition of marriage and make that the standard by which we live. Any other course is a path to the continued degradation of our society and culture. Cultures from the Greeks to the Romans and others throughout history discovered that a society based on humanism and the rejection of God’s will and purpose for man cannot long survive. When God is eliminated from the culture, the destruction of the society is not far behind.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.



Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Paul tells us we should pray constantly. That’s quite a mission. I’m not sure how anyone, Paul included, can pray constantly. Even cloistered nuns and brothers surely can’t pray constantly. They must eat, they must sleep. There must be some time that they are not praying. No one can achieve what Paul asks. Or can they?

Paul had to have known that praying constantly in the sense we normally consider prayer isn’t possible. So why did he tell us that this is God’s will for us? We get on our knees, or at least quiet ourselves, and pray to God. That takes time. Time we may not have on a daily basis. Most of us have a job we must accomplish, families we must care for and love. We must even find time for ourselves, to recoup our sanity from the daily chaos that many of us live with. So how is it possible to pray constantly? Perhaps Paul isn’t talking about what we normally think of as prayer.

If you’ve ever read of the life of Mother Teresa you might find a clue to what Paul may have been talking about. Mother Teresa was a small woman with a big heart and an enormous love of God. She devoted her life to the least of God’s children; those who were dying in the streets of Calcutta. How could such a woman do the things that she accomplished? Maybe it was because her life itself was prayer. Everything she did, she did for the greater glory of God. She risked injury, illness and death to help those whom no one else would help. She took them in, fed them, clothed them and cared for them. Most importantly she loved them with the love of Christ. She dignified their lives and their deaths by giving them love and respect in a world that had abandoned them. Maybe that is the kind of prayer Paul is referring to when he admonishes us to “pray constantly”.

Even so, that is a difficult task. How do we live our lives in such a way as to make our very lives a prayer? We can’t all live the life of Mother Teresa or other great spiritual women and men. How can we, the average Christian, approach the goal of constant prayer by the way in which we live our life”

In a Bible study I once attended, the leader of the group said that every morning when he woke up, before he even put his feet on the floor, he offered the day to God. We can do the same. We can give our day to God’s will, simply, sincerely and with conviction. We can ask God to watch over us, to guide us, to protect us as we go through the day. Our life can be a prayer to God if we give it to him and do our best to live it for him.

Of course we will fail at times. We are, after all, only human. But God knows that, he expects that we will fail at times; maybe many times. Regardless of our failings he is there for us, to welcome us back when we finally realize we have strayed. You see, God is more interested in our efforts to try to please him than in our failures. In many cases it is our failures that lead us back to God. If all is well and we are satisfied with our lives we, as humans, tend to take credit for the success and forget that there is no success without God. God wants us to know that even failure can lead to future success if we are truly seeking him in all that we do.

How are we to pray? There are many forms of prayer. They include petition, intercession, and thanksgiving. There are formula prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer; meditative prayer; contemplative prayer; and freestyle prayer. There are probably nearly as many ways to pray as there are people who wish to pray. Each is valuable in establishing and maintaining a relationship with our God.

All forms of prayer are pleasing to God because he desires our friendship and our love. He wants us to petition him for our needs, even though he knows far better than we what our needs are. He wants us to intercede for others who have need of his help. Sharing our love of God with others through intercession to help them through difficult times is good and God wishes us to share his love for us with others.

The form of prayer that is perhaps the most overlooked is prayer of thanksgiving. Each and every day we are given so many blessings. Unfortunately, we usually accept them as our due, never stopping to thank God for his gifts to us. We never have a problem asking him to fix something we believe is in need of repair, but we have a hard time thanking him for the things that aren’t broken because he loves us and watches over us. Perhaps take a few minutes at the end of the day to look back over your day, trying to find those events that are of God. If you look for them, you will find them. In this way, you can better realize the gifts God provides and thank him for his love.

Contemplative prayer can help us to better understand scripture and our relationship with God. Similar to a news reporter’s task of finding out the actuality of what the events were, we place ourselves in the scene as an observer to detail and more fully understand the events. If we contemplate the parables, for instance, we might consider not only what is being said but what the reaction of those around us is. Do they appear to understand? Do they agree with the principal or meaning of the parable? How are they reacting to the message? This allows us to more completely consider the scripture and, hopefully, get a clearer understanding.

Meditative prayer is quest to try to deepen our understanding of Christian life and how we are to live it. We seek to better understand what the Lord is asking of us and how to respond in a manner pleasing to him. When we meditate on scripture we seek a deeper meaning in what we have read. While contemplative prayer can be a more analytic view, meditative prayer is of the heart and feeling. Perhaps we will find that we can better apply that particular scripture to our life and our current situation. Thought, imagination, emotion and our desires are all a part of meditative prayer. This helps us to deepen our faith and strengthen our convictions. As with any prayer, meditative prayer will help us better understand God and our place in his plan.

One way to experience meditative prayer is to imagine yourself as a participant in the scripture you are reading. For instance, if you are reading the parable of the prodigal son, try to imagine yourself as the son. Think of the hurt you caused your father by demanding your share of the inheritance, in effect, wishing him dead. Consider the life of debauchery on which you wasted your inheritance. Experience in your mind the shame and dismay of tending to swine. Swine were unclean to the Jews, so you were unclean day after day. Can you begin to feel the sorrow once you realize the wrong you had done to your family and to God? Fully aware that you are no longer worthy to be called son, do you share in the hope that your father will at least take you back as a servant? Imagine the joy of seeing your father running toward you as you approach home. Experience the depth of love from a man whom you had wronged but who was now willing and anxious to reclaim you as his son, forgiving you completely. Feel in yourself the unrestrained joy of total and complete forgiveness.

Now reread the parable, this time imagining yourself you as the father. How would you feel as the father if your son whom you deeply loved betrayed you in such a way? Basically saying I wish you were dead so that I can have my money. Can you understand the hurt and the loss of a child who abandoned you and your love? Do you, as the father, watch for him every day; hoping; praying that one day he will return to you? Feel the joy when you first see him far off, finally coming home. Experience the joy of running to greet him and taking him in your arms. Know the love of a parent whose child has returned.

Freestyle prayer is also a means of developing a deeper relationship with God. Picture yourself simply talking to God as you would your best friend. After all, our best friend is what God truly wants to be. Take the time to sit down with him in the evening and share with him the joys and the trials you experience throughout your day. Ask him for help in living your life as he would have you live it. Prayer should be a two way communication. Take the time to be silent and listen for God. Some say they experience the voice of God. Many simply understand that God has a plan for them and if they honestly seek it, he will show them the way. However God responds to you in prayer, you must listen for it. God does not yell, he does not push, he simply is. Let him into your life and he will change it. I used to ask God to walk with me, but I’ve learned that it has to be the other way around. Instead of expecting him to walk with you, make it your prayer to walk where he will lead and follow joyfully, for it is in his will that eternal salvation is found.

Regardless of the type of prayer you are most comfortable with, the primary purpose of prayer is communication with God. St. Therese of Lisieux said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” Prayer should be a joyful time, a time spent with our best friend. If we can develop a friendship with God in our prayer life it will deepen our love and adoration of the heavenly Father tremendously. There is no other joy that can compare with the relationship with God built by sincere, continuous prayer.

Paul gave us the path, it is up to us to follow it. “Rejoice always, pray constantly”.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.

Son of the Living God

Son Of The Living God

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Matthew 16:13). Jesus asked the apostle’s this question while on the way to Caesarea Philippi. The apostle’s answered that some said John the Baptist, others Elijah, or one of the prophets. He then made the question specific to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16).

The importance of this question is the fact that Jesus is God. He doesn’t represent God, he doesn’t preach the word of God as a minister or priest. He isn’t a prophet of God. He is God! In order for the new covenant to succeed, people needed to understand that the covenant Jesus would institute was a covenant with God. Just as was Abraham’s and just as was Moses’.

The significance of Peter’s answer is evident in Jesus’ response, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Farther who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 1:17-19) The divinity of Jesus was acclaimed in his proclamation. God had granted Peter the grace to fully understand the true identity of Jesus. He was thus designated as the head of Jesus’ church, to be the continuing force in the church once Jesus had returned to the Father.

Today, we need to reclaim the strength and confidence displayed by Peter. We are too willing to allow others to define Jesus. Rather than defend our faith strongly and confidently, we tend to want to avoid conflict. We’ve been taught that it isn’t polite to “argue” religion. Even when the eternal life of others, and perhaps our own as well, is at stake we still hesitate, and too many times refuse to boldly state what we know to be true: Jesus Christ is our God and Savior!

Have you ever heard someone say that they thought Jesus was a great teacher, a holy man, and even a prophet? They will go this far but aren’t willing to say he is God. I’m sure that we’ve all heard these statements from non-believers or even some who claim Christianity but don’t have the courage to fully state their belief. This is a blasphemous statement that we, as Christians, should never allow to go unchallenged. In fairness, they possibly make these statements in an effort to avoid confrontation or maybe in an effort to not offend their Christian friends by admitting that they don’t believe at all. Whatever the reason, the statement is categorically wrong.

Jesus was either the Messiah or he was a liar, a blasphemer, a revolutionary, and a very dangerous man. There is no other choice, we must either accept him as the Son of God, or condemn him for his lies and blasphemy. In this there is no middle ground and those who claim one need to recognize that fact.

As Christians, we must be willing to stand up for who Jesus truly is. We must have the courage to debunk any definition that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ. We, as believers, must not allow false images and theories about our Lord and Savior to go uncontested. If our faith is not strong enough to stand up for our Lord we have lost the race. We might as well admit to ourselves that we have abandoned the Savior who gave his life for us.

Standing up for the true identify of Christ can be difficult and may result in being seen as a religious fanatic, or old fashioned. Perhaps you will be ostracized and your friends will be uncomfortable with your stand. We are not intended to seek comfort; we are intended to seek the Lord. The disciples suffered for their belief and their courage in preaching it. Saint John is the only one of the apostles who did not suffer a martyr’s death. They did not shrink from their responsibility as Christians. They accepted their fate, knowing that Jesus had prepared a place for them if only they remained true to him.

Peter, when called before the high priest to be questioned concerning the healing of a cripple, replied to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12).

This is the courage of a man convinced of his salvation and its source. We must strive to have this same courage to stand tall before those who would question the divinity of our Lord, and say with Peter, there is salvation in no one else! This is not faith in a prophet or a religious “leader” this is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. When the Sanhedrin ordered them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:29-20)

Peter and John were facing the same group of men who had condemned Jesus before Pilate and sought his death by crucifixion. Yet they had the courage to not only stand up for Jesus and his divinity, they told the high priest and his council that they would disobey their order not to speak of Jesus. They had to know that they could have been put to death for their actions, but chose to stand for Christ regardless of the consequences.

Stephen, the first Deacon in the church, was also a man who was willing to risk everything rather than deny the divinity of Christ. When brought before the high priest for questioning he related the history of all of Israel and their continual rejection of God’s prophets and representatives. When the Sanhedrin became enraged at his recounting of the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, he stood his ground, saying, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56). Even as he was being stoned to death for his convictions, he had the courage to plead with Jesus for the forgiveness of those stoning him. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)

When Jesus found the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals in the temple, he didn’t hesitate to make a whip of cords and run them out of the temple (see John 2:13-16). The apostles faced imprisonment, torture and death, but chose to stand up for their faith. Martyrs over the years have suffered grievously, yet still clung to their faith. At one point Nero used Christians soaked in oil as street lamps in Rome, but they accepted this death rather that deny Christ.

The history of Christianity is replete with the stories of martyrs who willing went through horrible torture and death rather than deny our Lord. Yet it seems that we have lost that courage in many ways today. Rather than risk being seen as a fanatic we’ve become willing to allow non-believers to dominate the discussion of who and what Jesus truly is. If we continue to deny him, how can we expect him to not deny us before the Father at our judgment”

In today’s society we are not encouraged to stand up for Jesus, but are actually encouraged to not mention him at all. We are not supposed to talk about our faith at work, or even in public. We might offend someone. This idea that religion and faith is off-limits offends me, and I hope you as well. We have a right, guaranteed under our constitution, in addition to our God-given right, to stand up for our faith. We need to exercise those rights, just as those who would silence us exercise their rights to state their non-belief. If not, we risk eliminating faith from our culture. Without faith, our culture will not survive.

We hear repeatedly about the so-called separation of church and state which, by the way, does not appear in our constitution. What the constitution actually says in the first amendment is, “Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” Maybe we should stop calling this the “establishment clause” and start calling it the “free expression clause”. We tolerate atheists, agnostics and others who wish to denigrate our faith yet fail to allow the faithful their free expression to dispute those statements. As Christians, we must confront those issues and stand our ground.

Jesus asked his apostles to pray to the father for workers to help gather the harvest (see Matthew 9:37-38). We are those workers. However, we must be willing to take a stand for Jesus if we are to be of service. We are his hands and his feet, but we can’t walk the path he lays out for us if we are afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to proclaim, as Peter did, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.

Offer It To The Lord

Offer It To The Lord

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, is a time of the year that means a lot to me. To contemplate the Passion of our Lord, the pain he suffered, the death he endured, and finally, his glorious resurrection is, along with Christmas, one of the primary highlights of our Christian year. It provides the whole of the plan of salvation and enables us to focus on that plan and what it means to our life.

There is one Holy Week that had a major impact on my faith and understanding of Jesus’ gift to us. By Tuesday of Holy Week I was so sick I could barely walk or even get out of bed. Once my loving wife convinced me I needed to go to the emergency room, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and most of Friday in the hospital. Thankfully, it was not a serious illness, mainly the result of extreme dehydration brought on by what was probably a virus. It’s amazing how God uses situations such as this to our benefit even though we may not realize it at the time. This virus, or whatever it was, helped me to learn and better understand the true meaning of Holy Week and the final victory of Easter Sunday. There truly is a silver lining to every cloud.

As a convert to Catholicism, I had often heard that when in pain or distress we should “offer it up to the Lord”, but never truly understood what that meant or why you would do that. Surely Jesus didn’t want us to suffer, so why would we offer our suffering to him? Jesus spent his ministry relieving the suffering of others, so did it mean we were supposed to offer it up so he could take it away? I didn’t really believe that was the reason. At least if it was, it seemed not very many people were doing it right, because there continues to be a lot of suffering in the world.

However, due to my experience that Holy Week, I found a whole new meaning to this practice. I found what I believe is the purpose of offering it up to the Lord. It made a great impression on me and taught me a lesson that I hope will never be forgotten and gave me a far greater appreciation for the true meaning of Holy Week than I had ever had before.

As I lay in bed sometime on Tuesday, so weak that even raising my head was a chore, I was aware of the desire to offer this suffering up to the Lord. This seemed a little odd to me because, as I’ve said before, I had never understood why you would do that. But it didn’t seem to matter the reason, my whole being was insisting that I offer my suffering up to Jesus. So I did.

I didn’t know what I was doing, and really didn’t know why, but I opened myself up to the presence of the Lord and offered him my suffering as a gift from me to him. I didn’t know of any special prayers for this, so it was just a one on one conversation with my God. I didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest, didn’t know if I should expect anything. What I received was one of the greatest gifts of my Christian life. I wasn’t “cured” or anything like that. I discovered that healing isn’t the reason for offering suffering to Jesus. It is an opportunity to share in his suffering and to better understand the sacrifice he paid for our sins.

The gift I received was a deep, personal experience with our suffering Lord. It was almost as if I were there during His passion. I knew, more than I have ever known before; the pain of his scourging; the crowning of thorns; the carrying of the cross. Not only his physical pain, but his personal pain as well. The pain inflicted by the desertion of his friends. The same friends who had just shared supper and the first Eucharist with him. Those who hadn’t had the strength to stay awake and pray with him in the garden of Gethsemane. The humiliation and pain of being betrayed by one of the twelve that he had chosen. Peter’s denial that he even knew Jesus, not once, but three times. It was incredible to understand his suffering as deeply as I did. Finally, the pain and humiliation of the crucifixion and his death on the cross. All the while it was like I could see his face and I could see the love in his face through the pain and the suffering. The love he had shown by becoming man in order to pay the debt for our sins. It was the most incredible spiritual experience I have ever known and I’m sure that it will affect me as a Christian for the rest of my life.

The only word that even comes close to describing what occurred that day is revelation. This was an experience deeper and more meaningful than any other in my life. As I contemplated and virtually witnessed his suffering, I could almost hear Jesus saying to me that all of this was for me. All that he suffered was his gift to me, and to you, and to all mankind; the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation and eternal happiness with him. I’ve known this throughout my Christian life, but never to the depth that I now understand it.

I know now that “offering it up to the Lord” is something each of us should and need to do. While we are offering our suffering as a sacrifice to Jesus, we also open ourselves to Jesus and to having a better understanding of the suffering and sacrifice that he endured for our salvation. Our relatively minor suffering can’t possibly begin to compare with his suffering for us. But if we are willing to suffer for Christ, perhaps, in some small way, we can say thank you for the suffering he willingly endured for us. This isn’t to say that he wants us to suffer. It certainly doesn’t mean that we should seek to suffer. But there will be some suffering in everyone’s life; maybe physical, maybe emotional, maybe financial. If we can take that suffering and make it a gift from us to Jesus, I know that it will help us understand his gift to us. It will also help us put our hardships in perspective and understand that regardless the suffering we experience in this life, Jesus gave his life that we may not experience suffering in the next.

One of my favorite prayers was written by Thomas Merton. In part it says:

“… the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But, I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.”

I believe that offering my suffering to Jesus does, in fact, please him.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.