Category Archives: Sin

On Spending by AJ Avila

The Everlasting Gobstopper

On Spending by AJ Avila

Posted on May 24, 2017 by ajavilanovels

Occasionally I watch the television show Pawn Stars, shown on the History Channel. It can provide a fascinating look at historical objects, some of which are museum quality.

In a recent episode, the owner of the pawn shop (located in Las Vegas) took a trip to Los Angeles to procure more merchandise for his store. In particular he was searching for movie memorabilia.

But my jaw dropped at the amount of cash he doled out for one item: more money than my husband and I paid for our house. So what was it? The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Perhaps Sam’s piano from Casablanca?

Nope.

For a measly $100,000 he bought the Everlasting Gobstopper prop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I’m not kidding.

I wish I were kidding.

Wait. It gets worse. The pawn store owner bought it for that price because he figures he can sell it at a profit. That’s right: he believes that somewhere out there is a person willing to pay even more for a brightly-colored thingamajig about the size of your big toe.

I puzzled over why someone would consider this item to have any worth. Personally, I wouldn’t pay 2¢ for it. What’s the value in owning such a thing? So you can show off to your friends that you’ve got the Everlasting Gobstopper and they don’t? Is this supposed to produce some sort of one-upmanship over your neighbors?

But even more – I was appalled because that money could do so much good elsewhere. What could a free clinic do with a check for that amount? Or your local crisis pregnancy center?

Imagine going for judgment before Christ and when He asks you what you did with your life, you explain that hey, you bought yourself the Everlasting Gobstopper!

Spending your money like that kind of sounds like a way to get yourself classified as a goat instead of a sheep, huh?

Anyway, I was feeling rather smug and superior about the whole business – when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I do exactly the same thing.

Except I do it in an even worse way. Oh, I don’t go out and waste a lot of moola on movie props. I waste something even more valuable.

I waste time.

Time is always more precious than money. Money I can always earn more of. I can’t earn more time.

In fact, my life is made up of time.

And how much of it have I spent playing video games or watching some inane television show? That’s time I could have spent doing something valuable like praying, especially for the conversion of sinners and for the souls in Purgatory.

When I stand before Christ for judgment, what am I going to say? Something like “Hey I spent a lot of my life on video games and stupid television shows”?

May I always remember that when I point my finger at someone, I have three fingers pointing back at myself.

After all, it’s not gobstoppers that are everlasting. It’s our souls.

 

About ajavilanovels

AJ Avila is the author of four Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Amaranth, Nearer the Dawn and Cherish.  Her website can be found by clicking here: AJ Avila Reflections

 

The Gift of Healing; and some miracles I have witnessed by Deacon Marty McIndoe


               In 1 Corinthians 12 verse 9, St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of healing.  We have heard numerous accounts of Jesus healing people, and even of the disciples healing people, but do we still believe that healings occur?   Is this gift still present to us today?  Do we have to be a Saint in order to have this gift?  I personally believe that this gift is still very present among all of God’s people.  I have seen several miraculous healings with my own eyes.  I would like to take a few moments to look at this precious gift of healing that God has given his people.
               First of all, it used to be assumed that illness and sin go hand in hand.  You just have to read the bible to see how often the two are put together.  I think that we have to be careful to avoid thinking that sin causes sickness.  Sickness seems to just happen to people, some good people, and some sinners.  It doesn’t discriminate between the two.  There is no doubt that some sins might bring about sickness.  For instance, promiscuity and sex outside of marriage may very well bring about sexually transmitted diseases.  Not properly taking care of our body, can also bring about illness. These things are pretty obvious, but most illnesses are caused by various factors that don’t include sin.  We are called to live as holy people, outside of sin, but many who do still get sick.  It just happens.
               We are very fortunate to live in a time when medical science can deal with many illnesses and bring about healing.  God created our body to be able to heal itself in many ways (minor cuts, etc.) but there are so many illnesses that need the help of medical science.  I really believe that God has given to our doctors and nurses and other medical personnel the gift of healing.  He has given them the ability to go for intense schooling to help treat our illnesses.  He heals through the very work that they do and we should recognize that.  Probably the best way to receive any healing is through the combination of medical help and prayer.  A good friend of mine who is undergoing medical treatment just told me that he can feel the power of prayer at work through the treatments.  I think this is so true.  All healings are really miraculous, even those through “normal” medical means.
               Sometimes there seems to be times when the gift of healing is made manifest in very remarkable ways.  I remember one time attending a Priest’s and Deacon’s conference at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  On one evening of the conference they opened it up to the public to attend a “healing mass”.   There were several priests at that conference who were known for having a healing ministry within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and they were going to pray for healings.  I was sitting in a huge tent with fellow priests and deacons and members of the public, when I noticed a man coming in who was blind.  He had two family members with him to help him.  He sat about four chairs away from me.  I remember thinking that he must really be hoping to be healed.  The mass started and after we all received the Eucharist, the priests began leading us in a healing service.  One of the priests went down among the people sprinkling them with Holy Water.  When he came to us I remember feeling the water hit me and I heard a loud crying out sigh from the blind man.  I looked over and he was praising God and dancing in place.  He took off his dark glasses and was looking all over.  The people who brought him were crying.  I kept looking over to him and he began to look through his wife’s purse, picking up individual items and staring at them incredulously.  He had been healed.   It was a remarkable sight to see.
               Another time my wife and I were on retreat at the St. Augustine retreat center on Staten Island.  We were attending a healing retreat given by Father Francis MacNutt.  Fr. Francis was known for having the gift of healing.  There were several healings at that retreat, but one that I really remember was of a young college age girl who walked with difficulty and wore one shoe that had a platform on it making it about six inches higher than the other shoe.  She explained to us all that she had been in a very bad car accident and that they had to operate and take out about six inches of her leg bone that had been crushed.  The raised shoe platform was to make up for that six inches of missing bone.  Even with the platform shoe on, she walked with great difficulty due to other damages to her hip.  Father MacNutt prayed over her for an extended period of time.  I remember hearing someone near her during the prayers saying that they saw the leg growing.   I had to really doubt this and it was getting late so my wife and I went to bed.   The next day we saw this woman walking perfectly normal with no shoes on.  I still remember her playfully, or should I say joyfully, running up and down the stairs.  She had to go around for the rest of that day with no shoes on because now both legs were the same length and the raised shoe was a problem.  I know, this is hard to believe, but I saw it.  I also remember her mother coming to pick her up from the retreat and seeing her back to normal.  She was in shock.   Yes, God does do miraculous and remarkable healings.   I have seen others and heard of others and have no doubt that miraculous healings occur.
               The problem that I have is that I don’t understand why some people are healed and some are not.  Right after that Staten Island retreat, I came home filled with expectant hope of healings for some people that I knew.  One of them was a young teen age boy with cancer.  His parents attended the prayer meeting in our parish and I knew them to be faith filled people.  I remember going over to their house to pray with their son fully confident that he would be healed.  Unfortunately he wasn’t, and died shortly after.   I do believe that in death we receive the greatest healing possible.  Still it is hard to lose a young person like that.  Unfortunately, this has been repeated several times.  I know that God heals, and I also know that death is the door to great healing, fullness of life in Him. 
               We cannot know why some people are healed, and some don’t seem to be.  But we must know that prayers and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick do work.  We also must trust that in any of our sicknesses and our pains, God can use them to bring about the good.  It is all about a God who showers us with miracles every day because of His great love for us.  No matter what, He is at work in our life and leads us to the fullness of life in Him.

An Election Editorial by Catholic Girl Blogging

chains___

It’s funny what a strange dream can lead to.

Last night I had a dream that I was standing in a pitch black room.  The only light came from two glowing red lines, one in front of me and the other behind me.  Faint white smoke plumed from the red line in front of me, indicating its heat.  Out of the darkness, someone approached me from behind and began to chuckle in my ear.
I woke up trembling to my alarm.

The minute I logged on to Facebook, I was hit with posts about Trump and Hilary; the Clinton campaign emails about Catholics being backwards, Trump’s disgusting words about women and so on.
Not a day goes by without the election being on my mind.  November 8th once felt like a far-off event, but now it’s drawing nearer, getting closer each day like a hungry spider slowly crawling to its cocooned prey.
While I waited in the drive thru on my lunch break, I found myself pondering the dream.  As I replayed it in my head, a strange thought crept in:
“You have no choice, my dear.  You must choose.”

I silently murmured to myself, “And what if I don’t choose?”
At that moment, I had a mental image of the red lines turning into ropes and a trapdoor that had been under my feet the whole time opening.
I snapped out of it when I heard, “Welcome to Jack-n-the-Box!  May I take your order?” With a shaky voice, I ordered my food.

Just like the frightening dream, our country is locked airtight in the devil’s bind; we currently have two disordered candidates with their personal character being questionable at best and repulsive at worst.  The way I see it, this political bind was years in the making and our nation fell headfirst into this trap long ago.

I’m probably going to sound like a Republican old man living in a red state when I say this, but truth is still truth no matter who is telling it.  Out of my way, Donald, this Independent female blogger from bluest of blue California is about to tell it like it is.
We have kicked God out of America; out of our schools, out of our media, even out of our homes.  We have rejected the values our Lord holds dear.  Our nation allows unborn babies to be slaughtered for any reason, continues to redefine marriage and mocks morality.  You know something is wrong with a country where a rapist can serve only six months in the county jail for violating an unconscious woman.

Mother Teresa once said, “Find your own Calcutta.”  No need for me to look far, Mama T, because I’m living in it.  We may not have people literally dying on the side of the road, but we are a nation of homeless people, splintered families and abandoned veterans.  America may be rich in resources, but we are poor in principles.  We are a prosperous but hopeless land, thinking we can make it on our own and without the God who bestowed upon us our freedoms in the first place.

Of course the devil would take advantage of this.  He has done so little by little, convincing us to remove God from the public square in small doses.  What started as snowball removals, such as attempting to take God off the dollar bill and then successfully removing Him out of our schools, has avalanched to where we have became a nation under God in name only.  People are more divided than ever before.  We no longer see each other as children of God, but rather as enemies if we disagree with one another.
How else do you think two people whose personal values are not rooted in Christ have been able to run for the highest office in the land?

So here we are, trapped in a ditch of our own making, being forced to choose between two candidates nobody wants to elect.  We have come to a crossroads regarding what we want our nation to be and we have no idea where to go from here.  Can our divided culture be healed?  Can the damage that has been done be reversed?  Can this damning bind be undone?

In all honesty, I don’t know.  I really wish I could tell you that all will be well, but everything depends on individual Americans, and based on the way things are now, I don’t think a revolution of compassion is on the horizon any time soon.

What I do know is that society will change once we change our hearts.  We as a nation must open our hearts in order to change them.  Jesus is a savior, but He is also a gentleman and will never force Himself on any person or any country.  If we are not willing to turn to Him, then He will let us hit rock bottom if that is what it takes to open our eyes.

I say this a lot on the Catholic Girl Bloggin’ FB page and I’ll say it here: The best thing you can do is just strive to be a better person in your every day life.  Instead of getting into a shouting match with a friend over a political issue, stop and try to remember how much you value their friendship and then try to find common ground with them.  Hold open doors, call a family member and tell them you love them, smile at a passing stranger, help someone carry their things, find volunteer work or a charity event to participate in.  The list of ways you can exercise kindness is endless.

I know, this seems like a cop out, but it actually isn’t when you really think about it. Kindness means going outward instead of turning inward, which is something many Americans have done.  Once you look beyond yourself and see the struggles of others, you begin to wonder what you can do to serve them.  It was selfishness and pride that got our country in this mess, so maybe humility and mercy can be the stepping stones towards a new tomorrow.  You won’t fix this country in a day, but you can change the outlook of one person’s day and maybe, just maybe, that person will go on to help another and a gradual chain reaction will begin.

Any time you are a positive force in your family, at your job, within your neighborhood or wherever you are, you are doing the will of God.  It is written in John 13:35, “This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In the dark torrential sea of political discord, you have the opportunity to be the calm island where weary travelers seek refuge.  America is in a big mess, but you have the power to have an impact in your own humble way.

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
–Saint Francis of Assisi

“Modern prophets say that our economics have failed us.  No!  It is not our economics which have failed; it is man who has failed-man who has forgotten God.  Hence no manner of economic or political readjustment can possibly save our civilization; we can be saved only by a renovation of the inner man, only by a purging of our hearts and souls; for only by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Justice will all these other things be added unto us.”
–Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

undoer-of-knots

Bio:
Catholic Girl Bloggin’ is a twentysomething California gal who started the blog in June of 2015. She writes movie reviews, saints biographies and frequently shares quotes from her heroes, Padre Pio and Mother Teresa. You can check out Catholic Girl Bloggin’ at
http://catholicgirlbloggin.net/

THE PASSION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The_Head_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist_on_a_Charger

The Church calendar is filled with many celebrations of the Saints and Holy Ones who went before us.  Usually the celebration date is scheduled on the day that person died.  We do that to recognize that the death day is the day the Holy One entered in to heaven.  In the Church calendar we celebrate the birthday and the death day of only three people.  The first is Our Lord Jesus Christ.   The second is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The third is St. John the Baptist.  It certainly doesn’t surprise us that we celebrate Our Lord’s birthday or Our Blessed Mother’s birthday.   The fact that we celebrate ONLY one other’s birthday and death day tells us how important St. John the Baptist is to the Church.  On June 24th we celebrate the feast day (birthday) of St. John the Baptist, and on August 29th we celebrate his Passion (death day).

Jesus himself says this about St. John the Baptist, “among those born of women, there has risen no one greater that John the Baptist”.  So who then is this very special person?  John is recognized by the Church to be the Last of the Old Testament Prophets, and the first of the New Testament.  His own birth was quite miraculous, like many of the prophets that preceded him.  His parents were well beyond the normal child bearing years.  An angel, Gabriel, appeared to John’s father, the priest Zechariah, and foretold his miraculous birth.  Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be “great before the Lord” and would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from within his mother’s womb”.  Even his name, John, was divinely inspired.  It means, “The Lord is Gracious’.  When the Blessed Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John.  As soon as Mary spoke, John the Baptist leaped within his mother’s womb.   The word translated “leaped” is the same word the Old Testament used when telling us that David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.  David leaped and danced before the Ark of the Old Covenant and St. John the Baptist leaped before the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary).  Truly, as the angel said, John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from within his mother’s womb.

John was certainly a man who was quite different from most.  Scripture says that as a child he grew and became strong and then lived in the wilderness until the day of his manifestation to Israel.  St. Mark tells us that he was clothed in camel’s hair and ate locust and wild honey.  This was the same as Elijah the prophet.  St. Mark also tells us that the appearance of St. John the Baptist was connected with Isaiah; he says, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare the way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.  When John made his appearance, the people recognized him as a prophet and they came out to him in large numbers.  He had numerous disciples who followed him.  He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand and the people had to repent.              He baptized people as a sign of repentance.  Jesus came to John to be baptized and John protested saying that it is He who should be baptizing.  Jesus convinced John to baptize him, and he did and we have the beautiful  Trinitarian theophany where the Holy Spirit is seen and God the Father’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved son”.

John was quick to say that he must decrease while the Lord must increase.  He told his disciples to follow Jesus.  John was the one who called Jesus, “The Lamb of God”.    John was known for speaking out the TRUTH, no matter what the consequences were.  This is what finally brought about his passion.  John had publically rebuked Herod the Antipas telling him that his marriage to Herodias, his brother Phillip’s wife, was unlawful.  Herod threw him in prison but did not want to kill him because Herod knew that John was a Holy prophet and that the people loved John.  Herodias hated John and, through some trickery with her daughter, was able to have the king behead (if you don’t know the story, read Matthew 14: 1-12).  John’s disciples came quickly to claim his body and then immediately went to tell Jesus.  It is interesting to note that Amiens Cathedral in France claims to have the skull itself.  The history of it appears to make it quite probable.  In 2010, archeological digs in a fifth century Cathedral of St. John, found parts of a body buried in a marble box under the main altar.  Carbon dating shows these bones to be of a first century Middle Eastern man.  They may very well belong to St. John the Baptist.  In 2012, National Geographic covered this.

So why is St. John the Baptist so important to us?  Personally, especially for today, the example he set in always standing for the truth, no matter what the consequences, is extremely important.  Also, the fact that he did everything he could to try to prepare people for the coming of the Lord should resound within us.  We too, are called to prepare people to be ready for the coming of the Lord, either by their first encounter with Him, their many encounters with Him, their encounter with him at death, or his second coming in glory.

I would like to share a prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for Aug 29th.  “God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be a herald of your Son’s birth and death.  As He gave His life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever.”

 

A Lesson at the Library by A.J. Avila

childrens-room-library-for-blog

One of the more exciting things about having children is introducing them to the wonders of the world. Watching them make discoveries for the very first time often shows us what we’ve lost growing up.

For example, I wanted some more reading material, so my husband and I stopped by our local public library with our firstborn, who was all of two years old. Sure that watching Mommy browse the shelves in the adult section was far too tedious for a toddler, I suggested my husband take our daughter into the children’s room. Our library boasts three large aquariums there, vibrant with colorful tropical fish. Certainly she would find that more entertaining.

I figured I had hit it on the nose when about fifteen minutes later, she came back into the main section of the library, bobbing with excitement. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” she squealed, grabbing my hand. “Come see!”

Her tiny hand cradled in mine, I allowed her to usher me into the children’s room, but to my surprise, she dragged me past the fish tanks and to the shelves of Easy Readers. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “They have books here!”

Books? At the library? Who would have thought?

Smiling at her enthusiasm, I suggested we examine them. What a wonderful idea! As we pulled title after title off the shelf, I sat back on my heels, enjoying her delight at opening them and exploring the wonders inside.

Then I came up with an even better idea. “Let’s take some of these home with us!”

Immediately her grin transformed into horror. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting. Puzzled, I racked my brain for the reason. Slowly it dawned on me that she thought taking the books would be stealing. Even worse, she thought her own mother would be complicit in such a terrible crime.

I explained that we wouldn’t be keeping the books. We would take them for a while, then bring them back.

That, apparently, was even worse somehow. Her lower lip trembled, and I could see she was on the verge of tears.

My pleas that this is what a public library is all about fell on deaf ears. I even offered to ask the librarians at the desk if it was okay to borrow some of the books.

“No, Mommy,” she choked. “Don’t!”

Well, I certainly didn’t want her very first trip to a library to be such a negative experience. “Okay,” I said softly. “Let’s put the books back.”

Only doing that placated her suffering.

In Romans 2:15 St. Paul declares that the law is written on our hearts. Apparently, it’s written so well even a two-year-old can see it.

Yet . . . how many of us are so horrified at sin as my toddler was that day? Do we become so inured to evil, so callous, that we don’t see the heinousness of it as we once did? It’s there every day, in our newspapers and on our television screens, yet don’t we just go on sipping our coffee as if nothing has happened?

Maybe Jesus hit it on the nose more than we realize when He told us we need to be born again and become like little children.

Maybe one of the reasons is so we can recapture seeing the world, and the evil in it, the way we once did.

 

Find A.J. Avila at Reflections on My Catholic Journey – https://reflections911.wordpress.com/author/ajavilanovels/

A.J. Avila lives in San Bernardino with her husband. She is the author of three Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Nearer the Dawn, and Amaranth, which are available on Amazon Kindle with all net profits going to charity. (You can learn a bit about those by reading the synopses on Amazon.)