React or Respond

I was drawn to this moment of an American Flag mounted on a tree with blooming flowers below it, in the country morning sunlight, because it reminds me of how the Flag is a symbol of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect. Without it we have chaos.

How do you react when you see people being hostile toward Christian beliefs? Do you let your anger simmer, get into an debate on social media, or just keep quiet? It’s difficult to know how to respond to those who show antagonism to our faith, but Saint Peter gives us good advice ….

… but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

1 Peter 3:13-18

Are you willing to suffer or be misunderstood? Since the world finds holiness, obedience, and reverence for God confusing or even offensive, taking a stand for righteousness may bring you criticism instead of praise.

Then online, Facebook, Twitter and Google were seen as white knights of progress, but now there is a lot more skepticism about their effects and their intentions. Or you might be thinking that maybe you should quit social media because it can hurt your career.

The late Zig Ziglar says “It’s not the situation, but whether we react negative or respond positive to the situation that is important.”

Responding to Our Culture

When we react to a situation it is often a fight or flight action, more often than not it is a defensive mechanism. It is reflexive with little thought of the action or outcome. Reaction is usually a response to an emergency or a crisis, and respond is like a thought-out, deliberate decision.

We also see the aspect of react such as regarding men, their reaction to religious sharing groups, and what discourages them from attending.

Remember these points:

  • Don’t fear the intimidation, but remember that when you are persecuted, you are blessed (Matt. 5:10).
  • Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart. A follower of Jesus is no longer enslaved to the world but is now a slave of Christ and His righteousness (Rom. 6:18; 1 Corinthians 7:22).
  • Always be ready to give a defense for your hope. This is to be done gently and respectfully—never with anger or condemnation.
  • Keep a good conscience. You can’t foresee how God may use your example. Perhaps your righteous behavior and words will influence others to see their own sin and turn to Christ.

Even though our culture looks very dark, Christ can use your light to show someone the way to Jesus.

As a parent Joseph may have had many more surprises not recounted in scripture. What we do know of him is that he always responded, made the necessary adjustments and took action all the while with an appropriate degree of faith and surrender to God.

Bishop Joseph Perry

Frank J Casella, CMCS-Director

Bishop Joseph Perry: The Culture Wars

Catching the news on screen and in print these days would suggest that a war is on between religion and the popular culture, over issues such as medico-moral applications, same-sex marriage and religious liberty.   One city newspaper commentator went so far as to say, “It’s always a good day when our elected officials get their marching orders from their consciences and their constituents, not from their religious leaders – be they Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise.”

For the longest time, in our lifetime, we have always thought there was or should be or could be or can be a friendly discourse between the two realms, that there was consensus on how citizens, regardless of faith or no faith, can responsibly and morally lead their lives and be a credit to themselves and society.  Increasingly these days agreement appears more and more disparate between the two realms.

These times call for prayer, prayer to be able to lead lives under the watchful care of God and pass to our children the best modeling and example of faith-filled lives.  For many of us, religious faith is the battery we run on.

If we are inclined to pray at all – we really don’t like God meddling in our lives.  We moderns have certain off-limits signs that we want God to observe.  Modern ideas conceive of a sharp and distinct chasm between popular culture and its civil freedoms and the messages and guidance that come from religion, the latter often accused as being anachronistic if not out of sync with progress and enlightened ideas.

Honest prayer turns us toward God and opens up our lives to great possibility.  That parable Jesus told his disciples (Luke 18) about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector both who came to Temple to pray on the same day.  The Pharisee’s self-serving-self-righteous prayer manages to keep God at arm’s length. Though appearing to be very open to God he is inclined to recite everything he has done well – just in case God has forgotten or has been too busy to notice.  He is not like the rest of men, or so we are made to believe by his recitation.

By contrast, the Tax Collector’s simple but honest prayer of repentance pleases God.  His is a humble stance that he is like the rest of men, a sinner, who marvelously has won God’s approval for his regret and his humility.

No one wins these kinds of battles that are current in the culture.  But the Christian faith continues on, by the grace of God and not so much by how well we have observed its tenets.  We strident Christians just figure that there are certain things we can never be and certain things we can never do simply because we love and admire the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who is coming back to take us with him.

When Jesus tells his disciples to be persistent in prayer He cannot mean be persistent in self-serving or dishonest or arrogant prayer.  Who are we to tell God what He should be.  We can only rely on the mercy of God.  Honest prayer comes from a stance of humility. We are children of God, not God’s equal.  Honest prayer opens us up to God, searches for God’s Will, not our own, prepares us to remove any off-limits signs in our lives that we know it all, thereby allowing God’s grace to touch our entire lives – our words, our thoughts our life’s pattern.  God’s Word is always trying to influence our lives completely.

When we discuss any number of things, it always helps to understand deeply that we are, as the Tax Collector was willing to admit, sinners in search of God’s Will.

CMCS archives JNP 2013

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Bishop Joseph N. Perry: Men And Mass

From the CMCS archives, in this video Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, reflects on the importance of Sunday Mass to Catholic men and their families. Bishop Perry oversees Catholic Men Chicago Southland, an Apostolate that works to encourage and support Catholic men to grow spiritually and to bring Christ into their daily lives. This reflection was recorded in Saint James Chapel during the Year of Sunday Mass.

 

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If You Don’t Stand For What You Believe, People Won’t Know Where You Stand

By Frank J Casella

Have you ever met a person who says they believe one thing, but then does something else?

Have you ever faced making a decision and can’t find the best answer, or the best direction to go.

In my volunteer work with Catholic Men the topic often comes up about how to make decisions. It usually comes down to based on our personal belief system. Specifically, it’s important to us that we make decisions in the work place and at home that reflect Jesus Christ as the center of our lives.

My late father often said the words, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. This is why it’s important to know what we believe. In fact, even an atheist knows what he believes .. That he doesn’t believe in God or Jesus.

Many converts to the Catholic Faith I have witnessed are on fire for the Truth of the Church more so than those like me who have been brought up in the faith.

Why is this?

I think it’s because they (converts) have made a decision to the Faith instead of being born into it.

When we make a conscience decision about anything in life, instead of that decision handed to us, then we have an intentional commitment to it.

The thing is, most of us I find try not to make intentional decisions, but rather just live for the moment as long as it takes care of our needs, wants, and personal desires.

So, if you are a Christian, how do you make a conscience decision based on what you believe?

The way I try to do it is to look at the person or matter through the eyes of Christ. To first ask myself if this decision is on my agenda or on God’s agenda. How does Jesus see them or this matter, and how would He respond. … through me.

Many times when I seek where God is at work in the matter, elements come into play that go beyond whatever I could do on my own.

I also try to live my life as a prayer; to have a conversation with God all day long, and do more listening than talking. This takes practice being in tune with the Holy Spirit, and listening for ‘the voice’. Test the small decisions to know that you hear it right first, before moving to the big decisions.

Finally, I spend a few minutes each day just to think. In silence.

After I drain my brain of the many concerns of the day, several things come to mind that I write as a thought and not as a to-do list. It becomes easier over time, as you become more serious and disciplined, and sincere, then God will speak, you will see.

By doing all the above you will find over time that making a decision becomes more easy, and you will have clarity over a matters faster, because you know what you believe.

Some decisions are not made for us alone, and this is were we bring in trusted council to help us with discernment, such as a priest or spiritual director, or trusted friend.

Why is all of this important?

Because our lives are just passing through here on Earth. So the time we have left is meant to make a positive difference for the next generation, compared to when we showed up.

And we do this by making the right decisions in the little everyday things, so that over time we have a satisfying life well lived, rather than a life of confusions and wanderings.

Said another way, I’ve never met a person that served themselves who was happy and full of joy, and living a satisfying life.

So, decide on what you believe, and then let that belief transform your decisions in this life. Sometimes you will find this is opposite of what the world tells you to do.

But, then, if you don’t stand for what you believe, people won’t know where you stand .. including yourself.

 

Frank J Casella is co-founder of Chicago Catholic Men’s Conference, and executive director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland Apostolate.

Portions of this post are from this article on LinkedIn Blog

 

 

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