Catholic Community Commentary

Posts tagged “heaven

Jesus Came to Divide Us?

            At a recent children’s Mass that I attended, the Gospel reading for the day was from Luke 12:49-53 where Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.” Christ continued to explain that father would be against son, mother against daughter, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and so on.

            After the reading, the priest spoke to the children and said, “That doesn’t sound like Jesus. In the Gospel, he said one person would be against another person even in families; but Jesus came to unify people not to divide them. He wouldn’t want us to be against each other.”

            Then the priest explained that what Jesus was talking about was how sometimes we disagree about Jesus and what he wants of us. The priest gave the example of going to Mass, when some family members do not want to go. He said, “You know, boys and girls, sometimes Moms and Dads don’t want to go to Mass on Sunday. You might tell them, ‘but we’re Catholic, we have to go to Mass on Sunday’ and they might say, ‘well we are sleeping in, we are not going.’ That’s the division that Jesus was talking about.”

            I was so struck by what this priest had to say. The division and conflict in the Catholic Church does not come from outside sources. It doesn’t even come from high ranking officials. The unrest and lack of peace in the Church comes from within each one of us, especially in our families.

            When we turn away from what Jesus has taught, we experience an unsettled hunger. Our peace is gone. By embracing the teachings of Christ, we are fostering a peace with deep roots of comfort for ourselves. It is truly our free-will gift to choose –away from Jesus and sorrow or toward Jesus and joy.

Jan Kahle


Komen…What’s the Controversy?

            Recently Bishop Blair wrote a letter concerning fund-raising for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. His clear statement addressed the problem of cancer research and the use of embryonic stem cells. While Susan G. Komen ofNorthwest Ohiodoes not directly fund cancer research, it does send 25% of the collected donations to the parent company which does offer grants for cancer research.

          Bishop Blair is responsible for imparting the teaching of the Catholic Faith to the people ofNorthwest Ohio. It is a responsibility that he neither takes lightly nor can choose to ignore. In that capacity, the Bishop addressed the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, one of those teachings. Since some cancer research institutions use unwanted embryos from fertility centers for their research, there is potential that these small human lives are not being respected.

          In addition to support of life in the womb, Bishop Blair also offered support for those struggling with cancer when he suggested directing donations to the Mercy Cancer Centers. The Northwest Ohio Susan G. Komen Foundation had been sending money to the Mercy Cancer Centers as part of their outreach so the Bishop’s suggestion does not diminish this work.

          It is very important for us to realize that any past fund-raising we may have done for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, done in good faith, was not wrong. However, knowing what we do now, it is important to direct our donations to life-affirming organizations.

          Finally, since embryonic stem cells have been used in research, they have never been proven to assist with any medical condition. In fact, they react much like cancer cells. On the other hand, adult stem cells, which harm no human being, have been proven to help with leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, juvenile diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia, heart damage, corneal damage, and dozens of other conditions. Just from a scientific perspective, it does not make sense to direct funds to research that has proven itself ineffective and away from such a viable alternative.

          I would hope, though, that we would approach this issue through the eyes of faith. I pray that as Catholics we can see that when we treat any human being, no matter how small or vulnerable, as less than dignified, we tear at the very fabric of our own humanity, our connection to the Creator.

Jan Kahle, Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Toledo


The Hand of God and Snow Angels

Hi to you bloggers,
     I’ve been away for a while due to vacation and Christmas activities.  It is good to be back.  Today’s topic is seeing the hand of God. 
     Recently, our parish put together something unusual and touching.  We decided to put together a project called “Andy’s Angels in the Outfield.”  An invitation was put out to get participants to line up on a lighted baseball field and to fall backwards into the snow (in zero degree weather) to make snow angels for a recently departed angel named Andy.  Our expectations of a few angels showing up were soon overwhelmed as hundreds of angels showed up for the fundraising event to help the family with expenses due to Andy’s illness.  Although we raised a nice financial nest egg, we raised the spirits of the family and community. 
     To say that we will never forget, and that love will never die, is part of our faith and our hope.  To express that so well on that night will be remembered.  It was truly a God-event for many.  Tears were shed and hearts were touched.
     For me, I had the best seat in the house for the event.  I was in a tower, high above the ball field.  As an organizer, I also knew how things came together.  That itself was the hand of God.  A six inch snowfall days before made for beautiful angels.  The timing of the participants walking in lines across the frozen outfield could not have been better planned.  Everyone was in place with 10 seconds to spare.  The 8 o’clock bell rang, a shout of one, two, three rang across the tundra, and hundreds of angels fell to the earth to flap their wings in support of a fellow family member and friend.  From the tower, it was just like a movie.  Hundreds of colorful angels marching across the snowy white field to land for a moment, before flying in unison while looking into the sky. 
     I have to believe Andy looked down and smiled because we looked up and smiled.  It is not so hard to believe that heaven and earth can be united.  It happened on a snowy field in Ohio.  That day, the hand of God looked like snow angel wings.

Fr. Mark


Evil Happens…We Do Nothing?

Abortion is an issue that I don’t relish focusing attention on or talking about, especially at Christmas time. The death of unborn children, as we consider Christ in Mary’s womb in anticipation of His birth, seems so incredibly wrong. And yet, with the opening of the new abortion clinic in Lima, it seems essential that something be said.

There are several points that are usually raised when someone mentions abortion as an option: it should be a woman’s right to choose; we’re supporting women; it’s only a blob of tissue, nothing has changed in the fight against abortion after so many years. Let’s take a few minutes to address these issues.

For any consideration of abortion, we need to understand what the action really is. Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by removing the child growing within its mother. It isn’t a blob of tissue, but a human being. All of the genetic information is present for the child’s physical development. Equally present is a soul, that gift from God that makes us unique from simply being animals.

The child in the womb has been described as a blob, something less than human, so that an abortion might seem okay. Yet the truth is that the child looks very human after only a few weeks of growth, but has been fully human since conception when body and soul come together.

I think some of these false ideas have surfaced when people witnessed the destruction of a human being after the suction machine has torn it apart, much like we don’t recognize the animal in hamburger. In addition, it can only be without faith that we see the developing child as a blob since we are denying the soul’s presence.

With the recognition that this is truly a child, a human being, let’s look particularly at ‘a woman’s right to choose.’ What is she choosing? She is choosing to end the life of her child. Again it appears obvious that we do not see the child as a child for no one is in favor of killing another. We do not have the option to choose to kill other people. We couldn’t kill the child in a mother’s womb unless, in our minds, we make that child less than human.

The other piece that I grapple with is why anyone sees abortion as something helpful to women. The procedures are anything but affirming. For example, a woman who is less than 9 ½ weeks pregnant and has a medical abortion (which is the method at the Lima facility) will be given an oral medication (RU-486) in the office and will be sent home with medication that needs to be vaginally inserted 6-72 hours after that oral medication. Then alone in her home, she will begin cramping and bleeding until the child is discharged. She is left alone to flush her child away.

How is any of that positive for a woman? Did she really know what her choice was? Was she forced to endure this by someone else, economics, or shame? If we truly want to support women, we need to help them with the natural, yet challenging situation of their pregnancy. We need to be there offering support, education, supplies and advice, much like Heartbeat and other Pregnancy Centers.

Adding to the trauma of this crime against women and children is how it tears at families. I have heard the weeping grandmother sharing the story of her lost first-grandchild and the sorrow of a young father who was given no option at all about the life of his child. And then there is the regret of the post-abortive woman, whose sadness seems unquenchable.

Things have changed over the years in support of life. There have been laws put in place that would prosecute anyone who forces a woman to have an abortion. The Hyde Amendment prevents federal money from being spent on abortion. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prevents the abortion of a child shortly before its birth.

Why hasn’t more been done? Perhaps the answer is you. What have you done to fight against this evil? Has it been a focus of daily prayer? Did you join members of St. Michael’s Parish in being a prayerful witness outside of the Center for Choice abortion clinic during 40 Days for Life? Do you write letters to the editor about this issue? Have you called or e-mailed your Congressman?

As Edmund Burke once said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” It happened during Christ’s life and it is happening during ours.

Jan Kahle, Pro-Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Toledo


Have a Song in Your Hearts this Christmas

Merry Christmas. 

     When it comes to Christmas, I have my favorite songs.  Music always brings me places. 

The “Barking Dogs Jingle Bells” makes me like Happy Gilmore.  I find a happy place. 

The “Carol of the Bells” takes me to a reflective quiet place. 

“Mary Did You Know?” makes me gentle. 

Any Karen Carpenter song makes me a member of a choir, as I love to sing with her. 

“Some Children See Him” makes me an advocate for world unity and peace. 

“I Wonder as I Wonder” makes me extra holy, as I wonder at the plans that God worked through a child, a son, a Messiah.  I wonder how God will touch my life as I begin a new year. 

“The Friendly Beasts” brings me back to a time when I was a farmer and my dad would invite us kids to treat the animals particularly well on Christmas because Jesus came to change all creation.

     Christmas songs move me.  And I truly believe that Christmas is supposed to move us also.  If a song can take us places, how much more can the One, who makes Christmas what it is, take us places we never imagined?  To have a song in one’s heart is one thing.  To have Jesus there is quite another story.  To know we are so loved, through the birth of God’s Son, makes traveling through this world to the next a journey of love.  Love moves us to do amazing things.  Let Christmas move you.  Let the Lord move you, for love is born on Christmas Day.  

   Merry Christmas to all of you.  Have a song in your hearts.  Have the love of God, Jesus, there also, today and every day.       

     I’ll be home for Christmas.  Not because of my traveling, but because He has made His home in me.                                          

Fr. Mark


World’s Smartest Man Addresses Praying for the Deceased

     For years I have been known by my nieces and nephews by a particular title.  It’s not Father or Padre, but the “World’s Smartest Man.”  When we used to play Trivial Pursuit I would always make up great answers which sounded logical to small children.  I told them that the answer was correct because I was the world’s smartest man.  They were just too young to Google the right answer. 

     I do get asked some interesting questions, especially from children.  The question asked this week that caught my attention was, “Why do we pray and have Masses for people who have died?”  It makes us question the feast day last week, All Souls Day.

     Why do we celebrate, as a Church, the memories and lives of those who have died?  Do such celebrations have an effect on our loved ones in the afterlife?  These kids ask tough questions.  Maybe I’m not the world’s smartest man!

     I may not know how our prayers affect those who have died, but I do know that our prayers affirm our faith, hope and love.  We place our loved ones in the loving arms of our God.  We trust in faith the promises of our Savior.  We have hope that they are in peace and that one day we will join them as they behold our Heavenly Father’s face.  In our celebrations, we remember in love and pledge our love to last to eternity.  We come to the Almighty and everlasting to give an eternal reward of peace to our loved ones.  We may not know how our prayers affect those who have died, but we do know that our trust in the Lord is strengthened and nourished.  We celebrate the Communion of Saints and, by praying, come closer to the Communion of Saints, ourselves.  These celebrations and prayers have an effect in our lives.  We are comforted and brought to peace. 

     I may not be the world’s smartest man, but I sure feel better knowing and celebrating that my parents are with God today.    Fr. Mark


Why Some People Choose Eminem over Emmanuel

My nephew and his wife were on television this week. I told a lot of people to check out the show. They were on a show on Home and Garden channel for first time house buyers.

I have to admit it was pretty neat to see my nephew on national television. His five minutes of fame gave me five minutes of fame.

I also have to let you know that it was my first time watching HG (Home and Garden) television. Real men don’t watch such shows.

Isn’t it funny what we brag about. I’ll associate myself with someone famous  or on television but will distance myself from a perceived woman’s show. I thought it might make for a good discussion or thought provoker when it came to being a Christian.

We will associate with all kinds of music or activities but rarely will tell our friends or colleagues at work that we went to church over the weekend.

We’ll say that we went to a sports event but will shun going to a church retreat. What will others say or think? When did it become so unpopular to be good or go to church? When did everyone’s opinion sway me from doing what is right for me?


To Hell and Back

There have been a number of people make comments on the first blog regarding after-life and what I experienced nearly 45 years ago when I got shot at the age of 8.  There are parts of that near death experience that I will never forget. 
Through the years, I have spoken with a number of people who have shared their near death experiences.  There are a number of things we have in common in our “visions” of the next life.  Nearly everyone I have spoken with have shared the presence of an amazing light, the feeling of complete peace and the feeling of not wanting to come back. 
These aspects are common, but the second part of my near death experience is not necessarily common.  I have only found a couple of people who have shared with me the second part of their and my near death experience.  We got to experience a vision of what hell would be.
I remember after I experienced such amazing peace and light with a heavenly gathering, I found myself completely alone in such a darkness, where shadows lived and so did pursuant beings.  I knew I would never experience what was once so near and so right.  To be pursued by darkness and nothingness was completely scary.  (If you have ever seen the movie “Ghost” with Patrick Swayzee you may have some idea of the darkness which pursued me.) 
I remember the fear, which I have never experienced since, that filled me.  I remember the aloneness.  I remember knowing that I would never be able to leave that place.  My memories of hell were of darkness, loneliness, being pursued by evil and pure fear.  I’ve experienced a lot of fear in my lifetime but nothing like that portion of the near death experience.  
There are questions that I have asked myself after I came back.  Why did I go there in the first place?    Why did I go there after I went to the heavenly place first?  What I tell people is that if heaven is like I experienced it, heaven is the place you want to be, and I don’t tell them about the dark vision. 
For me, I am not driven by a fear of the darkness.  I am so influenced by the light of the Lord that there is little room for darkness.  To be in the presence of the Lord is heaven.  I see glimpses of that light in my ministry, through people and nature. 
I believe in the reality of hell, that people have the capacity to choose to be away from God’s love and other’s love.  I believe hell is living a life without God.  To be pursued with something other than light and never know fulfillment or peace scares me.  To never give love or take love in is hell and darkness.  As opposed to my heavenly vision where there were lots of people, I saw no one in hell.  
 
So get used to going to the light.  It is where we all want to be, forever.

A Glimpse of Heaven

Is that all there is?  Over the past 25 years as a priest, I’ve been asked that question or one like it, many times.  The questions take many forms, but they all come back to, “If there is a heaven, what’s it like?”  I recall my first week at my first assignment at morning Mass.  A mom came out of Mass with a concerned look on her face.  As she approached, I could also see the concerned look on the face of her daughter of 8 years old.  As they approached the little girl sobbed an important question,  “Do turtles go to heaven?”  Her pet turtle had died that morning and church was the only appropriate place for some comfort and maybe an answer. So how do you answer such an important question to a child or to an adult whose faith is challenged?   

For me, there are different ways to answer.  One is by the scriptures.  When we recall the love of God through the Son who rose from the dead, we are called to something beyond death.  God loves us eternally.  God loves us even before we are and beyond who we are.  Death can’t stop that kind of love.  After Jesus’ resurrection He ate with his friends, comforted those hurt by His death and made clear that we would be joined with Him forever.  Isaiah says it will be a place of choice food and wine.  Scripture gives us many images of God’s eternal, heavenly love.  So what is heaven like?

In 1965, when I was 8 years old, I was in a terrible accident.  I was shot through the heart, lungs and stomach.  The doctors gave me no chance to live, but here I am today.  While in the hospital, the doctors came out to speak with my parents after one of the surgeries.  The doctor said that they had lost me for a while but got me back.  It was at that time that I became one of those people who encountered a “near death experience”.  It wasn’t a common thing to talk about, and seven years later, my mom asked if I believed in “near death experiences.”  That was the first time I told anyone that I was one of those people.      

If heaven is anything like what I “experienced” it is the place to go.  Yes, I saw the light, but the light is nothing compared to the amazing peace, joy, wonder and rightness of where I had gone.  I remember asking myself while there, “Where could I be?”  It took no time to realize that I was with God, others and creation in heaven.  There was the beauty of creation all around.  (I could tell the little girl that I believed her turtle was in heaven.)  If heaven was a place of all beauty and goodness, why wouldn’t creation be there?  There will be clover fields to run through barefooted with my brothers and sisters, surrounded with the sweet aroma of clover and chasing rabbits.  I think we all have some heavenly thoughts that will be more than fulfilled in heaven.

In my “experience” I saw lots of people, people I knew and people I didn’t know.  And they were experiencing the same wonder that I was.  I also saw people on earth and knew, by God’s prompting, that they would be alright also. 

And I knew God was there in my “experience.”  It just wasn’t God’s goodness being there, but I knew God was there to be my God where nothing could harm or be wrong.  All made sense.  I believe we get glimpses of the Kingdom here on Earth, but it will be special when it is our time in heaven. 

Why did I come back?  God knows, and I trust that. I trust Him. Some things are best left up to God. I believe while we are on Earth we serve, enjoy and ponder God’s time that he gives us.  But He calls us to life to the full.  We should live in that kind of fullness of life here.  And that includes loving the best we can until we are loved forever in perfection.   


What Everyone Ought To Know About Heaven

Since none of us are getting out of this world alive, most of us have a huge fascination with the afterlife. It is comforting to know the details about where we will go and what we will do there. Despite the mystery we usually associate with it, we do have information that helps us to know what to expect; and we have someone who has been there and come back.

Jesus spent His earthly life sharing information about Heaven, namely God’s desire for us to be there and specific directions about going. He told stories and gave details that help us visualize both Heaven and hell. Most importantly, His passion, death and resurrection make our journey to Heaven once again possible.

As the Book of Genesis tells us, we began our existence in Paradise, a lush and beautiful place, where our relationship with God was open and close. Through our own choice, we separated ourselves from God. Not His desire, but our choice to sin (and don’t blame this one on Adam or Eve, we have each chosen to do wrong in our own time). Fortunately, the story does not end there. God so loved us (even though we are the ones turning away from Him) that He sent His only Son to save us – making Paradise possible for us again.

So what will Heaven or hell be like? Well, Jesus shared the story of the poor, beggar Lazarus who died and was carried to Abraham in Heaven, so obviously we will enjoy the company of those who choose to follow the path to God. But when the rich man from the story died, Jesus said that he was in torment in the netherworld. Clearly, hell is a place of great sorrow, experiencing the absence of God. (Luke 16:19-31)

In another example, Jesus told his apostles that “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places” and that “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:2-3) This explanation obviously allows us to visualize a real dwelling, a place, a home. We will after all, like Jesus, rise from the dead – soul and body.

Jesus shared that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast (Matthew 22). We are all invited to come to a wondrously, glorious event – who wouldn’t want to be part of that?  But Jesus also said that it is better to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand rather than have it cause us to end up in hell. That picture is clearly foul and unpleasant. (Matthew 5:29-30)

As He was dying, Jesus promised the repentant thief “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The invitation is open to all who want to go home to Heaven. Our repentance and openness to forgiveness seem to be the needed key. The choice is ours and the options are unmistakable. As much as God wants us with Him, He places the decision in our hands.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to hear about Fr. Mark’s experience in Heaven.

–Jan