Rotten

Over the years with the continual alteration of the English language, we realized for a short time that sick was cool, the latest rendition of dope means neither dense nor drugs, and “spilling the tea” has nothing to do with the common drink. “Rotten” however, still means decaying, putrid, and bad. Why the vocabulary lesson? So that we begin at the same starting point.

By their fruits you will know them…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Matt 7:16-18

This same chapter of Matthew opens with, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” Well, which is it? Where is the line between judgement and classifying fruit? It is there that many of us waffle back and forth fearful to make a pronouncement. “Gees, that banana is pretty spotty and spoiled …but who am I to judge?”

It is not about the tree;

it is about the fruit.

We do not judge people; we judge the fruit that is born from their decisions and actions. When I am unclear about someone’s motivation, I can look at their harvest over time and make an assessment. Why? To better determine their integrity, the genuineness of their words, reliability of their actions, and whether to put distance or stock in the relationship.

“So by their fruit you will know them.”

Matthew 7:20

A weed will never develop into a stock of wheat in nature. A weed is a weed from start to finish. Jesus reminds us of this fact, “…nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” I believe Jesus is helping us learn to discern the actions of others. From there we can make decisions on where we place our trust or spend our time.  It means we are paying attention, and not simply taking words and actions at face value. In the world we live in, we are constantly immersed in media, non-stop news, and marketing. We must be prudent and take time to look beyond the fancy packaging to consider the fruit being produced. This necessary endeavor will uncover the rectitude of the produce.

At times, the fruit is easily distinguishable. But at other times, just as in nature, we need to wait for the fruit to ripen. Some fruit can only be measured over time to expose its true nature. We have all had the experience of desiring a beautiful piece of ripened fruit. We are excited to taste its sweet, juicy contents. On the outside it looks perfect and ready. However, upon first bite we discover it to be mealy, disgusting, and unsatisfying, so we toss it away in disappointment. When it comes to people, we may even feel betrayed by something that did not accurately reflect what was presented on the outside. I propose some helpful life lessons:

  • Pay attention, not everything is as it presents itself. Dig deeper.
    • If you hang around rotten trees and eat bad fruit, you will get sick. Sour stomachs are the symptom of a bigger issue.
    • Do not continue to expect different results from the same behaviors.
    • Fruit is a metaphor for both physical and spiritual yields. One can be alluring yet scandalous, the other captivating and fulfilling, bearing much good fruit.
    • Pray for discernment and help in recognizing what is good
    • Look to Scripture. The Word of God deciphers, clarifies, and elucidates.

Scripture is the Word of God and worthy of study and reflection. It is ever new, bearing good fruit in our lives and souls. Its’ advice and benefits are timeless. Wisdom seeks understanding and welcomes lessons from the Master Gardner, who helps us distinguish good from bad fruit.

From Flocking Mad to a Flock in Prayer

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about faithful Catholics feeling rather abandoned by their shepherds during this past year.  My article “Flocking Mad, An Open Letter to Catholic Priests and Bishops,” was read by thousands with much feedback echoing comparable sentiments. Through comments, personal and public, people from all over shared how grateful they were for my “courage to express what they were feeling.”

I felt very strongly that this message was Divinely inspired, and so I surrendered it all to His Will. Our Shepherd, Bishop Olmsted, in whom I have great respect, wrote in response that it reminded him of the passage in Luke 12:48, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” He clearly understands that those who have been called by God to greater positions of authority in the Church, have weightier performance obligations.

While this is true, neither does it mean the rest of us get to mindlessly frolic in the pasture while they do all the heavy lifting.

In attempting to understand why many of us felt frustrated over these past fourteen months, I believe we kept waiting for our shepherds to act and lead us in the crisis, to comfort and extol, to challenge and step out in trust, to remind us by their actions and reactions– that fear is not of God. I believe that was the minimum expectation. Was that a faulty premises? It was scary for all of us. No one was left untouched. We were not demanding the impossible.

As faithful followers of Christ, we His sheeple, had a responsibility to hunker down in prayer, to continue to trust in God, despite the turmoil and fearmongering that raged on every media outlet. God is more powerful than this tiny blip on humanity’s radar screen. I am reminded of the scene in Matthew 14:24-32, when the boat is being tossed at sea and Jesus came to them walking on the water. He beckons Peter to come out. “But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

“When he saw how strong the wind was…,” Peter quickly sank into something far more dangerous, FEAR! Wind makes a lot of noise and does damage; fear does much worse.

We too, saw a big noisy storm blowing from all directions. We let it occupy our minds, take up residence in our hearts, and fill our homes. Did we cry out, Lord save us? Did we surrender ourselves and trust that the Lord would not let us drown? Did we rely only on human solutions? Because when Peter cried out, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” God was there for us, He never left.

Why do we doubt that the storms in our lives are bigger than the omnipotent God?

Countless times in Scripture we read about the awesome power of God to command nature, exorcise evil, raise the dead, transform hearts, and heal the sick. Maybe we think those are just fairy tales? Perhaps when Jesus reminds us that the size of our faith can move mountains, we assume he is exaggerating.

When our faith is little, it requires trials to grow. Step by step. Event by event. It does not magically happen without effort on our part. Spiritual muscles need to be exercised. Trust in God happens through learning to let go. Surrendering takes a lifetime, as we learn to relinquish control and put everything into the all-powerful hands of the Father. Faith requires stepping forward into the unknown.

Fear stunts our spiritual growth.

There is work to be done both by our Shepherds and by we the sheeple. God will not call us for something He has not equipped us to handle with His mighty help. We must pray daily for our clergy to be transformed by God. We must realize the good they are doing, rather than only dwell on the negative. We must pray for one another to be strengthened. We need each other. We are the One Body of Christ. Prayer helps us all!  

How do we transform from bleating, frustrated sheep? We must get involved. We must put skin in the game. We must support, pray for, and encourage our shepherds. We are the Body; Christ is the Head. As the Body, we are His hands, feet, and love in this time and place. We need to get to work; we have gotten lazy.

It starts with us being holy people, raising holy families, and ridding ourselves of unholy habits. And sometimes it means raising a little holy hell by reminding one another to do our part, stand firm, and trust God who is in control. Nothing happens outside of His Providence.

We were made for heaven, not to graze in the pasture all day getting fat. All circumstances are opportunities to form us into holy pilgrims on the path towards heaven. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Believe it. Your eternal life depends on it!

Flocking Mad, An Open Letter to our Catholic Priests and Bishops

Greetings from the pasture!

I thought I would reach out and apprise you about life from your sheeple’s perspective after being devastated from every angle. Perhaps you may think you know what it is like down here in the pasture–based on vetted emails, random blogs, or confessions (if you are doing those). You do not. We no more know what it is like to shepherd the likes of us than you know what it is like to be us in this time and place in history.

These are crazy times, yes? We all seemed to be caught unprepared. However more alarming than a worldwide pandemic was your eerie silence and over-exaggerated responses to shut down the flow of grace and sacraments. We really needed your reassuring presence, the trustworthy example of stalwart faith, and comforting words. Instead, it felt like you disappeared and are only recently emerging. So much silence! Where did you go as you continue to leave us to wander without strong shepherds in these confusing times. You were particularly inaudible before the election when we needed to be reminded of Catholic teaching. Many sheep wandered into strange pastures heeding lies because the light of clarity and truth was concealed under the guise of our safety. Where was the timeless, never-changing truth boldly proclaimed with conviction? You neither brought lucidity, nor wisdom when we needed you.

I will be honest; it feels like we have been abandoned, and left to the wolves, as we watch through the thicket, the discord and mounting division between yourselves. It saddens us to see our leadership in disarray. Good holy priests who do boldly speak the inconvenient truth are reprimanded including forced resignation. I am curious, why would priests speaking truths cause this reaction? Threats surround us from all sides, both inside and outside Mother Church. Who can be trusted? So many wolves masquerading as shepherds and very few say or do anything.

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth…”

Acts 20: 29-30

We feel like sheep without shepherds. God has entrusted us to you. How do we believe shepherds who are not even united on basic Church teachings? Are you as lost as we feel?

Why do you hide in Chanceries behind paper masks that will not protect you from judgment? You like seats of honor but fail to deliver when it gets too stormy outside. You bend and bow to the ever-changing winds of the culture. You regurgitate social lies through your unwillingness to correct and authentically lead. It seems you have become but an illusion of the high office so painstakingly bestowed upon you.

We wander about in inhospitable meadows with no bearing, while you cavort around with pomp and frivolity looking important wearing the stench of rotting souls.

Why do you fear a pathetic virus, and disregard the fires of Hell? Which is more perilous? The transitory has trumped the eternal. Rather than prepare us well for death and eternal life, you appear to have relinquished your office and surrendered to an agenda as predictable as Lucifer himself.

Where is your faith and trust in God? Where is your courage, your rod in hand, and willingness to protect the flock even at personal risk that you assumed at your ordination? With minute opposition the spigot of grace was shut down as you eagerly submitted to government bureaucrats rather than stand fast in seeking solutions and protecting the flock. During the Black Plague, where nearly one-third of Europe’s population died, it was Priests who selflessly stood in the breach knowing they faced certain death, yet risked their lives to give comfort, hope, and make available the sacraments.

Gentlemen, this is no Black Plague.

Never in all my life would I have imagined I would write such a letter. I am embarrassed for your failure to be the great men God called and equipped you to be. So many souls you will answer for that did not find refreshment and solace in your sermons, at the altars, and in the confessionals as you pandered to the fear and agendas of those who whispered insidious advice. How many died without viaticum as you concealed yourselves and encouraged others to do the same, unwilling to fight for our souls?

Even now, you unnecessarily continue dispensations further feeding the flock a disparaging diet of fear. Churches and Dioceses still mandating ludicrous requirements instead of being beacons of light in the darkness and extolling your brothers to be men of bold faith and trust.

STOP this madness. Fight the good fight. To Hell with your safely guarded reputations. Speak up, stand up, and fight for our souls. This trifling threat is nothing compared to what Christianity has endured over the ages. It is only an annoying pest that needs to be neutralized. A wise Priest once said to me, “Flies do not overwhelm us by their strength, but by their number.” And their number is steadily growing, while you only contemplate dialogue, and fail to act with authority and conviction.

Your silence is deafening!

Rally your sheep! Lead us in prayer and sacrifice. Plead before God begging for forgiveness for yourselves and for us all. Implore God to fill you with wisdom, courage, perseverance, and the determination to be the shepherds you were called to be. This is your moment. As Shepherds, you were ordained for this time in history.

Unite. Put your petty differences aside and direct us in the timeless never-changing truth.

It is time to get the fly-swatter boys and rid humanity of this infestation.”

One very little, very frustrated sheep,

Barbara Lishko

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Clueless

It is hard to fathom, frankly. Could it possibly be true? Is it as He says? I suppose for me the starting point would be in my own heart. Who do I understand God to be? Everything and nothing hinge on that very point. Everything changes if I believe despite what I see. If I do not believe, it changes nothing because it is what He says despite my unbelief. Is He the God of the universe wherein nothing is impossible, who’s Word brought everything into existence and holds it there? Or is He an imposter whom we have elevated over the millennia?

You must decide.

Your faith practice may simply encompass Mass attendance when it fits in your schedule. You go through the motions, because that is what Catholics are supposed to do. Maybe this is what your family did. Perhaps your family was like mine, wherein we never missed Mass, and we prayed the Rosary regularly. That was the classroom of my childhood, and how I was taught to live out my Catholic faith.

But Catholicism is deeper and richer than that.”

Perhaps, you are not entirely sure what the Church believes; but you are convinced there are aspects you are not in agreement with. Have you ever dived deeper into the topic to see what the Church in her wisdom actually teaches and why?

If pressured by a non-believer about who Jesus Christ was, could you comfortably and compellingly speak on His behalf in a way that would enlighten and influence them?”

One Christmas Eve at a progressive dinner in our neighborhood over eighteen years ago, I was goaded by a well-meaning Christian on various aspects of our Catholic faith. I fumbled with my answers and failed miserably in providing any collaborating data either Scriptural or doctrinal. I remember being tremendously embarrassed. Later that night in prayer I apologized to my Father in heaven for my lack of effort in growing in my faith. I had been a Catholic my whole life and knew squat. There was no valid excuse other than laziness and not making it a priority.

While it saddened me greatly, it also moved me to action. I strongly wanted to know more. How could I call myself a follower of Christ and active member of the Church He began, and yet know so little? I was in my forties and had maybe a third-grade education in the faith I professed.

I went right to work the next day and spoke to one of our Priests at Corpus Christi. Father was ready to help and pointed me in the right direction. I made it my priority to research answers for all the issues she had addressed and was blessed to discover so much more. I wrote to her apologizing for my inability to have answers for her and shared with her what I had discovered. I imagine she was not expecting my five-page response to her questions.  That embarrassing moment was the catalyst I needed to wake up and grow. I am thankful for it and continue to read, listen, and look for opportunities to learn. What I continue to realize with every new morsel of truth, is that I am starving for more, yet still know so little.

What about you?

Our Bishop, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted recently released an Apostolic Exhortation called. Veneremur Cernui. Like any good shepherd he seeks to educate his wayward, confused, and worldly flock. We wander away. We heed to the voice of others who are not the Shepherd, and we listen to wolves in sheep’s clothing which further cause division and misunderstanding. The exhortation is beautifully written, and easily understood. I encourage you to read it, talk about it, and share it. Why? Because it captures why we believe, and what the Church has always taught in a way that is digestible.

Truly accepting the truth about Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist is a game changer. If Christ did not rise from the dead our faith is worthless. If Christ just left us a symbol at the Last Supper, in the bread and wine, it is pointless. Men and women have died horrible, agonizing deaths for thousands of years rather than deny that the Eucharist is exactly what Jesus said it was. (read John chapter 6)

For we live by faith, not by sight.”

(2 Cor5:7)

Where are our eyes of faith?

If Jesus Himself was not convincing enough, if His Words in Scripture still do not persuade you, I implore you to read and pray for the Lord to enlighten your heart and mind to the undisputable truth of the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the little humble host we receive at communion. Ask the Lord to eradicate all doubt in your heart and mind. Ultimately, our actions will speak loudest of this truth. Belief will impact how we prepare our hearts and souls for the reception of Jesus our Lord and God, how we ready our appearance and dress for the banquet and realization that it is before God that we stand.

I invite you to meditate and pray on these three particular quotes by saints who came to fathom this gift of Christ in the Eucharist.

“I desire to unite Myself to human souls, Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things…They treat Me as a dead object.” (St Faustina’s diary,1385)

He who is all-knowing knew of nothing more that he could give than the Eucharist. He who is all-powerful could not do any more than he does in the sacrament and he who is all loving had nothing more that He could give. The Eucharist is a Divine storehouse filled with every virtue.”  St Augustine

“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation”  St Francis of Assisi

Cease in your unbelief and believe.

Beloved Dirt

Your plan so grand to fill the earth, with sea, and sky, sand, and dirt.

Reptile, mammal, and wild beast, predator, and prey, greatest and least.

Then scooped into your mighty hand, the dirt that lay across the land

To form a being unlike the rest, made in your Image, perfect and blessed.

Into his nostrils your Ruah blew, animated, in-souled, your life imbued.

A mate required to complement, beauty, grace, and provident.

Vile and dangerous the tempter slithers, words that deceive, their resolve withers.

You had it all, Paradise. Yet traded it for a deceptive compromise?

Why do we like our first parents, listen to the lies? Subvert the truth, and rationalize,

Good and evil we compartmentalize; it only hastens our demise.

The deception ongoing, only called a new name. Beneath the facade it’s the same ugly game.

Time has come we must reclaim, and boldly proclaim, “Be merciful oh Lord for we have sinned!”

Forgive us, renew us, the lies we rescind.

We are learning and realize to your mercy we cry, our errors you have crucified. Your friendship paramount when we die.

To our true home in heaven please carry, sorrowful, forgiven, redeemed, make haste and do not tarry.