theROCK

Caution. Speed Bump Ahead

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Speed bumps are installed to encourage people to slow down. Pay attention to the warning signs and you can navigate safely. Ignore them and you and your vehicle will get quite a jolt and may suffer damage.

Advent and Christmas are right around the corner. Working at UPS for almost 3 decades, Advent was a blur. The goal was to get home on the 24th in time to make it to family gatherings and Mass, and then collapse. Fast forward to working here. It is easy to focus on the planning and doing of the big days. Will we have enough seats, will the sound system work, where will people park, what about the weather. Being focused on the relatively insignificant, Advent runs the risk of again being a blur. I need to install a few speed bumps. How about you? What can we do?

During Advent, our staff will form small groups and discuss how the weekly readings speak to us. Our families are ready-made small groups. Take 20 minutes a week and discuss faith as a family. Consider attending Adoration on Tuesday, turning off the radio, pausing electronics for 10 minutes, going to a daily Mass, to confession, or stopping in the church for a time. These all provide time to talk with God. Cell phones and calendars can rule, and ruin, our lives.
I am setting a daily appointment and alarm, to stop for at least 5 minutes to be quiet and pray.

Will you allow Advent to be a blur? What will be the focus of your Christmas day? Praying we avoid the pitfalls and follow the warning sign God has ready for us: SLOW DOWN...speed bump ahead. A Blessed Advent.

Posted by Michael Ricci
Tags: advent

Pray for the Dead

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Praying for the dead has long been a tradition of the Church, but recent times suggest we may have fallen out of practice of this beautiful and necessary act of charity.

It is a strange thing to do, to pray for the dead. After all, what are we actually praying for the dead to obtain? The answer to this is based on the reality of Purgatory. Purgatory, another tradition not spoken of much today, is real. But what exactly is it?

To understand this we need to be aware that purgatory is not a necessarily a place but a process. Even here on earth, we are called to live a life of purgatory. The word purgatory means to purify, or in everyday language, to achieve the holiness necessary to enter into heaven. In other words, purgatory is a process which prepares us for heaven. 

When understood this way, purgatory is not just something for those who have died, but for all us living as well. All of us can be striving to prepare ourselves for heaven. However, as we know in our own life, we do not always take advantage of the time given to us here on earth. In fact, I can spend very little time preparing for heaven and rather spend a lot of time preparing for life on earth.

Purgatory is the opportunity given by God to prepare for heaven if we need it. That said, we might be tempted to ask why do we need to prepare for heaven at all?

If I were to die right now and go straight to heaven, I would immediately feel as if I do not belong because there are many things I am still attached to here on earth. Even if I am free from sin, there are still sins I have the desire to commit. I would feel as if I was unworthy as I stood among all the saints who completely entrusted their life to God. If we are honest, we know that even our loved ones who have died were not perfect. To account for this, God gives us the process of purgatory.

Purgatory prepares us for a place in heaven. When we pray for the dead, we are praying that this process may go quick. That they may purify and prepare themselves for heaven as fast as possible. We are encouraging and helping them.

When thought of in this way, purgatory does not seem all that bad or scary, in fact it is a great thing, for it allows us to experience the full joy of heaven.   

Perfection and Mercy

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I have always had really high standards, for myself and for others. I have lived my life demanding excellence because, as my father said growing up: “If you are going to do something, do it to the best of your ability or don’t do it at all.” With this mindset, I have lived a great deal of my life as a perfectionist.

Recently, however, I went through a really difficult stretch of life where I couldn’t be perfect, no matter how hard I tried. Due to a series of very unfortunate events all stacked on top of each other, I was actually just trying to make it out of bed every day and keep my family going. Perfection was replaced with survival.

It was in this time of darkness that God worked a wonderful work of healing within me. He showed me the depth of His mercy. That while He does desire Christ-like excellence from us, He sees our heart, the depth of our love for Him. He sees how hard we are trying. God is as merciful as He is exacting.

This tension, between God’s high standards and His mercy, is present in today’s Gospel. He, the King, is throwing a banquet and casting out invitations to everyone and anyone who wants to come. And yet, he casts out the person who showed up without the appropriate attire. Why? Because God doesn’t just want us to show up. He doesn’t want the bare minimum from us. He wants our best. And sometimes, our best is making it to Church in spit-up stained leggings and T-Shirt because we barely made it out the door. And sometimes our best is as close to perfection as a person can get on earth. He knows the circumstances of our lives. He knows the intention of our heart. He is deeply compassionate and merciful. But we also have to do more than just show up. We have to give Him our very best, whatever that may look like.

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