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Jesus Is Lord: God’s Love {Week One}

GODsLOVEchrist-king3Welcome to the Jesus Is Lord series! This is the first installment of the Jesus Is Lord course offered for adults at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas.

If this is your first time visiting this series, I encourage you to take a few moments and read through the series introduction that will give a clear picture of the purpose and content of the Jesus Is Lord course. The introduction post not only outlines the course, but goes over the motivation to share in this class on the internet. 

Today’s class is about God’s Love. If you would prefer to watch this class, please scroll to the bottom. Check back next week for the second installment which will cover Sin and Its Consequences

TEACHING

Father Uche Andeh spoke to the group about God’s particularly scandalous love for each of us. The following is a summary of his talk:

When you fall in love it’s a good idea to know who you’re falling in love with. The way you look at someone determines how you act towards them. Father gave an example of two people who have asked for the keys to your car, one being someone who you perceive to be a crook vs. someone who you know gives to St. Vincent de Paul {someone who does good things}.

Do you know who God is?
Are you afraid to answer?

 If we do not know who He is, it’s difficult to accept His love.

Distorted images contribute to not knowing who He is. 

Through various life events, we have confused images of God.

Confused images of God leads us to putting Him in a box.

 

Putting God in a box

  1. God the policeman – love/hate relationship – we fear Him rather than respect Him. We believe He exists only to give us tickets…and once we make a mistake, He is there to punish us. He is always there to give us a knock on the head when we don’t behave. He is just around the corner, waiting for us to mess up.
  2. God as a fire extinguisher – When there’s something you need, you turn to God, like a fire extinguisher off the wall – in the form of going to Mass more, confession more. We call on Him only when we have a problem or something goes wrong. God is not the person I call on every day. He’s used only when we need  something.
  3. God is in outer space – I’m just this little being and why should He be bothered by what I’ve done?
  4. God who is angry

 

God is who He is, regardless of Who you think He is.

What we think He is doesn’t change who He actually is.

Just because you put Him in a box, doesn’t mean he’s a

policeman,

fire extinguisher,

etc.

How do we discover who God is?

He is a God of love – just look to the Cross to see how much He loves YOU.

My dear brothers and sisters, think about the reality and compare how we’ve been thinking of who we perceive Him to be. He still loves us in a scandalous way… a very particular way. He loves YOU as an individual, as who YOU are as a person. How much does God love you? Since the world was created, since its creation, He has never created another human being like YOU. God has never made and never will make another human being like YOU. What does that tell you? YOU can never be repeated. YOU are so unique – science confirms faith in this regard. Not even identical twins have the same DNA.

YOU are truly unique.

Humanity has always been in search of the divine. In Christianity, it’s the opposite – God asked Adam “where are you?” God initiated the search in Genesis. He is always the one in search of YOU – knocking at the door. Isaiah 49:14-16 “upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you

It is impossible and against the nature of God to forget YOU.

It is outside the nature of God to forget YOU.

He did not create YOU in vain.

YOU were not made from some mold in a factory.

  • Zechariah 2:12
  • Deuteronomy 32:9-10,
  • Psalm 17:8
  • Zechariah 2:8 – “For thus says the LORD of hosts after the LORD’s glory had sent me, concerning the nations that have plundered you: Whoever strikes you strikes me directly in the eye.”

Whoever hurts YOU also hurts God.

Reflect on Scripture and how much God loves you.

SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

Noe Rocha spoke to the group next. This is a summary of what he shared:

Sacred Scripture describes God in a very personal way. Jesus told parables to get people to think outside the box. By doing this, He was able to convey the message that God loves us more than we understand. When people do a lot of the wrong, they fall into the trap of thinking they could never be in a right relationship with God – they feel lost and have no hope.

Man, I messed up so bad, not even God wants to do anything with me they might think. Jesus’ message was to the people on the periphery as well as the Pharisees. Though people were labeled as public sinners, they still saw something in Jesus that attracted them to His message.

Noe shares a story of his time in the Rio Grande Valley – a priest and nun took people on mission and would gather people in backyards, teach from the Bible, preach and pray for people. When the evening was finished, Noe saw movement in the shadows. Sister said those were the shadow people and told him to watch them. The next day, they weren’t in the shadows – they came a bit closer to the group to hear the teachings from the Bible. By the third day they were in the chairs {gangsters, low-riders}. These were considered to be people who were viewed as “less than” by society. After the mission was over, many of the shadow people joined in. 

Jesus is shining to the good people by sharing the parables, and some of the biblical version of shadow people are coming close. The good people aren’t comfortable with that. They didn’t understand that His message was for everyone, not just “good people.”

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Luke 15: 1-7

Verse 4 – Everyone listening to Jesus would say you do nothing when you lose one sheep. They knew you would lose about 10% to disease, bad weather, animals. It was common sense to not go after the 10% because that was bad business. Jesus challenges them by saying they should leave the 99 to get the 1. Common sense says you don’t go after the one, they say. Jesus preaches that when you find the lost sheep, you are so happy you put it on your shoulders joyfully.

Noe shares a story – Jesus was describing behavior that goes against what we would normally do. He recounts a story of a man who, as a child, fell asleep tending to the sheep. He woke up and discovered one was lost. His Dad beat him for falling asleep, so when he went back to the spot where he fell asleep and found the sheep, he took out his anger on the sheep, whipping it all the way home. He took out his anger on the sheep for HIS sin.

The reason why the tax collectors and outsiders were drawn to Jesus’ message is because they knew they could come back and be accepted and welcomed by the Father and not beaten for their sins. 

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Luke 15: 8-10

The woman searches her entire place very carefully. Most people wouldn’t think to look for it, thinking it’ll eventually turn up. She carefully looks for the coin until she finds it, then she throws a party and spends two coins to celebrate the joy of finding the lost coin. This parable was for the Pharisees. You can be inside the house and do all the right things, and you could STILL BE LOST.

The Parable of the Lost Son

Luke 15:11-32

Both sons had the same problem. The core problem with the younger son is found in verse 19

I am no longer fit to be called your son – treat me as one of your hired workers.

He didn’t know his father, and therefore thinks his father doesn’t have the power to restore him to sonship, so he reasons he will just be going back as a worker. In fact, he orders his father to treat him as a worker. But his father surprises him with his response and he tells the servants to put a ring on his son’s finger and to put sandals on his feet {only free men wore sandals}. He doesn’t just restore him to sonship, he has the servants kill the fattened calf. They weren’t just going to have a party, but were going to have a huge celebration.

He never had a father-son relationship – he saw him as the rules.

He never knew how abundant his father’s mercy was.

The older brother sees his father the same way. They are two sides of the same coin. The older brother heard the music – verse 26 – and spoke to the servant first instead of his father. In verse 29, he spoke back to his father {in the Spanish translation, he talked back, raised his voice}. He could not imagine the father’s response – that everything that belonged to his father also belonged to him – he had only to ask.

The Pharisees are the older brother, seeing God as rules and not as their Father. They are lacking the personal relationship.

TESTIMONY

by Joan

What does God’s love look like, what does it feel like, how do I know it is for me?

God’s love is for everyone, it is an awesome gift and part of receiving a gift is to open

it and use it. The Holy Spirit showers us with many gifts, but we have to pray for them,

receive them and use them. God’s love will look and feel different to each of us but it is

what we do with God’s Love that makes it real.

I am a cradle Catholic, educated in Catholic schools until I was a freshman in high

school. I knew who God was, what would please or displease him, would pray to him

mostly when I needed something.

****

I can definitely relate to God as some of the

descriptions Fr. Uche spoke of: a cop to catch me and then why would He care about

me when I was too much trouble? I have used Him as a fire extinguisher when I really

needed to get out of a situation and would promise Him, I would be good after that.

****

have felt His distance as I really never had a RELATIONSHIP with God, per se, other than

going to church on Sunday and maybe doing an activity or two at church. As I got older

and especially in my college and young adult years I took God for granted, and kept him

at a distance.

****

Fast forward to 1999, my son in 4th grade developed vocal tics {loud animal sounds}. His 

condition did not allow for him to be in a classroom, so he was homeschooled through the

school district. There was not a ‘cure’ for his tics, people did not want to be around him

as he was loud, and people close to us judged our parenting skills. I found myself with my

son all day, everyday tending to him. I remember one day driving through our neighborhood

and asking God why couldn’t Kevin just have one normal day and go to school like

all the other kids? I became very bitter and angry at God. I stopped going to church

altogether. Instead of turning toward God, I ran and blamed Him for my son’s illness,

feeling this was my punishment for the sins of my youth. I could not understand why

God was punishing him. Maybe I was the one He should be punishing. His condition

lasted 3 1/2 years. I would get up and walk or ride my bike early in the morning,

sometimes I would walk with 2 other ladies in my neighborhood. One day as we were

walking one of the ladies that I really did not know very well, but had meet a couple of

times said to me, I want you to know that I pray for your son every day. REALLY? I thought. This

caught me so off guard that someone who was not Catholic and I hardly knew except through

my friend would pray for my son. I was humbled by the fact that someone cared enough about my son and our

struggles to pray for us to GOD. As my son’s tics started to dissipate and he could return

to school and I could return to my life – or what I thought was my life.

****

I soon realized that something/someone was missing, I had forgot about God during

this time, instead of being angry and mad at Him, I should have been clinging to Him

for strength and comfort but I really did not know how. I returned to church by way of

confession and the door of God’s love was opened to me. My confession went like this:

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been 25 years since my last confession . . . with

tears, and after emptying my soul I heard these words, “I have good news for you, the Lord

forgives you” (something like this as my mind was not remembering everything).

I stayed for evening Mass and began to attend daily Mass every day since.

That was 10 years ago. I truly felt God’s Love at that moment, I felt a love

that was beyond my expectations, someone loved me so much that no matter what I had

done in the past, He was willing to forgive me and welcome me back. This new life and

love that I found started a relationship with GOD that I had never had before. God’s

Love had been working with me along, it was my own pride, selfishness, independence

that had hardened my heart. I learned how to pray to God other than times of need, to

be thankful especially for His mercy and forgiveness, mostly I prayed for patience and

perseverance in carrying any crosses that may come my way.

I started to pray for others and also how to forgive others, especially those that had hurt

me in the past. I started to go to Adoration and became involved in several ministries here

at St. William such as serving as a Eucharistic Minister, being a daily sacristan/lector,

and working with Confirmation and Elementary Faith Formation.

****

In Fall of 2010, Noe and Fr. Jonathan announced the Jesus is Lord course. I attend the

orientation and wondered how I was going to be able to work evening classes several

times a week and also spend an evening here for myself and what would be here for

me. At the time, I was on staff here at St. William for Elementary Faith Formation. I

knew that being a person on staff I also needed to feed and nourish myself spiritually,

so that I could minister to others. I prayed and talked with my husband and decided that I

would commit to attending each Thursday for a semester. My husband is not Catholic so

sometimes it is hard for him to relate to what we do and why we do it, especially to talk and

share the feeling of God’s love. This course helped me to see where God’s love was in my

life and also areas that He wanted to be a part of that I had not yet opened myself to.

****

As I talked about in the beginning there are so many gifts that are being given to us by

the Holy Spirit that being able to open them and use them to witness and minister to others

is sometimes difficult. I could feel that my relationship with God grew stronger as we

studied different ways that Jesus could be in my life – and some I had not really thought of before.

****

After the Jesus is Lord course, I was able to attend the Spirituality/Prayer course and this

past year I spent time studying our Church History from a Catholic perspective vs the one the

secular world paints for us.

****

During the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to take communion to the

homebound on a daily basis. This past spring one of our AFF team members 

became ill and could no longer attend daily Mass. For me, when I am not

able to attend daily Mass I feel something is missing. Attending daily Mass keeps me grounded.

I also knew this person loved to attend daily Mass as it was important to her. When I take communion

sometimes all I could do was to give communion to her because of her illness, other

times I am able to share God’s message with her in the daily readings. I take

notes so that I can tell her what the priest says in his homily, and sometimes I just sit and visit,

sometimes I cry with her. We pray together and for each other out loud, something that

I am have been very uncomfortable in the past. I have been her link to our community and

parish these many months. I cannot put into words the emotions, the suffering and

the faith of being able to visit someone everyday as they fight their own physical and

spiritually battles. What a privilege and tremendous gift it has been for me to be able

to share my faith and my own struggle with my son’s illness. I am happy to be able to

say that she is getting better slowly. She has been able to attend Mass on some Sundays

and sometimes during the week and hopefully will be able to join us here at AFF in the

future. Please keep Sarah in your prayers.

****

So at this point in my journey, I can look back and see the transformation within myself,

because I could open myself up to God’s Love. In doing this I hope I have became

a channel of that Love to others. I would like to end with part of the prayer that Fr.

Jonathan shared last week from Fr. Arrupe, ‘Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything’.

One of the longest path in my journey has been the distance between my mind and my heart.

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION

  • Start with a prayer
  • Questions to discuss during group discussion:
  1. How do people you know search for happiness and peace, or for God?
  2. What does it mean to you to have an intimate and personal relationship with God?
  3. How do you feel when you approach God?
  4. What struck you about tonight’s talk?
  5. Read and discuss Jer 29:11-13
  • Homework {edit: Study section should read: This week, the two chapters we will read are concerned with sin and its consequences. They are: Genesis 3 and Romans 6}
  • Conclude with prayer

SUMMARY

Homework is to be done daily – reflect on Scripture and God’s love through the week. If you are in a group, pair up two or three and commit to pray daily for your prayer partner. Small groups come together for a few minutes of question and answer. If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the combox below so that we can help in any way possible.

CONCLUSION

Prayer of Abandonment

Father, I abandon myself into Your hands;

do with me what You will.

Whatever You may do, I thank You:

I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only Your will be done in me,

and in all Your creatures – I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my soul: I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,

for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve,

and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father.

by Charles de Foucauld

{the above video is the entire first class from January 2012, if you would prefer to watch instead of read the material}

Check back next week for the second installment which will cover Sin and Its Consequences.

About Martina Kreitzer

Martina is a cradle Catholic, wife to Neil, and mother to seven kiddos here {and three in heaven}– 4/96-1/17. She decided to homeschool the kiddos in 2010 after many years in public schools. She is the creator of Catholic Sistas which focuses on a feminine perspective of the Catholic Faith. The website was the result of an existing camaraderie by the contributors in a Catholic women’s group she created. She is also a Seal of Approval evaluator for the Catholic Writers Guild. Lest you think she spends all her time online, Martina has enjoyed getting out into the community by serving on the Pastoral Council from 2010-2013. She is constantly on the lookout to make her parish as welcoming as the small town she grew up in East Texas. This task is not easy given that St. William is the largest parish in the Austin diocese, serving well over twenty thousand parishioners. She loves Jesus, coffee, bacon, chocolate, photography, more bacon, evangelizing, and the company of those unafraid to use their sense of humor.

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  • Jesus Is Lord Series on Catholic Sistas - […] Its Consequences,” was just posted today. There’s also an Introduction and a post for Week 1 on “God’s […]September 26, 2013 – 12:37 amReplyCancel

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