Let God Fight for You

“But Moses answered the people, ‘Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today… The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.'” -Exodus 14:13-14

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to fight my own battles and claim my own victories, even in the spiritual life. Much like the Israelites in the Old Testament, I have my own ideas of how I think things should be and how they should play out. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable “Red Sea” in front of me and “angry Egyptians” behind me (whatever they happen to be that day), I panic and worry. “How is this going to end well, God?” But where is my faith in these moments? We have a God who not only cares about us, but who fights for us! We have to get better about letting Him. We don’t have as much control over our battles as we think anyway, whether they’re personal, spiritual, physical, or otherwise. God will call us to walk straight into the Red Seas of our lives everyday. We have to trust that as we do walk forward in humble faith, He WILL raise the waters and guide us through by HIS grace, not by our own ability. Oh, but letting go of control is so hard for us (ME)! Let’s make it our prayer today to consciously surrender the outcomes of our “battles” to Our Lord, who alone has the power to see them through. Pray with me: “Lord, I can’t see what’s on the other side of all this, but I surrender it to You. I want control, but Jesus, I want Your peace more. I give to You everything weighing on my heart right now. I give You control over every part of my life, and I let go of my desired outcomes. With Your help, I will keep walking forward, no matter how loud the voices behind me or how high the waters before me. I will hold my heart still in Your presence. I do not need to fear, because I’ve placed it in Your hands. Please remind me everyday that You are with me always. Amen.”

Now, let’s let it go, and crack a smile! 🙂 Peace. +

Hope in His Name

“And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” -Mt. 12:21

Even just the Name of Jesus contains such power and hope, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Ph. 2:10). The devil and all his demons scatter at the sound of His Name spoken with faith. Our hope is in His powerful name that dispels all darkness within each of us and within our world. In our times of difficulty, sadness, anxiety, and suffering, let us repeat the name of Jesus in our hearts and on our lips as a reminder that He has conquered all in this world, and that nothing can take away the hope we have in Him. Jesus… Jesus… we hope in You. +

Who is Your LORD?

“I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.” -Mt. 12:6-8

Jesus made it clear that HE is in charge–not us. We are usually better at accepting Jesus as our Savior than accepting Him as our Lord. The dictionary definition of “Lord” is: “a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due.” As Christians, we must have Jesus as the Lord of our lives. This means that whenever our beliefs, preferences, opinions, and personal dogmas conflict with those of Jesus, we must surrender them to Him. If we haven’t made Him Lord of everything, we haven’t made Him Lord of anything. Let’s examine our lives and find those areas that we still need to surrender to Him. Jesus, grant us the grace to make You our ALL, so that no place in our hearts will be untouched by Your presence. +

What Will It Take?

“Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.” -Mt. 11:20-21

You and I ask God for many things everyday, which is good. It is good to come to Our Lord with our needs and petitions. Too often, however, we expect God to act as our genie in granting all we ask, when we ask it, and how we want it. The truth is that God is constantly at work in our lives, doing “mighty deeds,” but not always in the ways we ask or expect, or on our timelines. Our faith and trust in Him must not depend on whether or not we feel He’s answered our prayers on any given day. With humility, let us always remember how far and above God’s ways are beyond our human ones, and let us trust in Him because of the faithful love He has shown us through His Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus, we believe and we trust in You. +

Are We Willing?

“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Mt. 10:38-39

Jesus invites us to live fully alive in and with Him. He offers each us a life of purpose, and a freedom that nothing in this world can give. But in order to embrace this life with Him, we must be willing to daily take up our crosses and hardships–whatever they may be for each of us–and keep our eyes on Him. When we decide to live for God, He is going to ask us to make sacrifices. What are we willing to sacrifice in exchange for the joy and confidence that come from following Him? +

Dare to Be Great – Baccalaureate Address


St. Patrick’s Church Baccalaureate Mass

Senior Address – Dalton Rogers

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Good evening, my fellow graduates, families, friends, and parish family. My name is Dalton Rogers and I am the outgoing President of the Catholic Newman Club at UC Merced. Tonight I wish to speak to you, not as any kind of expert or theologian, but as your brother, who has been on this journey of life and faith right alongside you. Some may wonder why we are here at all tonight. After all, we have our ceremonies on campus for graduation, so why have we gathered here in cap and gown? You and I are here because, while we value and appreciate our public education and the state that afforded us the opportunity to pursue it, we recognize more than a few realities which will not be addressed at our university’s commencement.

Among these is the reality that you and I have been created by a loving God with a specific purpose unique to each one of us. The miracle of the universe’s existence and ours is not mere coincidence or luck. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI emphasized this reality when he stated that, “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.” John Henry Cardinal Newman, the patron of our Newman Club, put it this way:

God knows me and calls me by my name.…
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission—I never may know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.

Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments
and serve Him in my calling.

How incredible it is to realize that each of us has been created in this way, with a unique fingerprint of God stamped into our very being. We have each been given distinct characteristics of our God which we are called to share with the world in some specific way. Many of us will do this as spouses and parents, some as priests and religious, some as doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, businessmen and women, researchers, and a whole host of other professions. As graduating college seniors, we may not see right now what the ultimate big pictures of our lives are going to be, but we do know that no matter where God leads us, or how long it takes to get there, our mission, our calling, is to be fulfilled all along the way.

Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” At the heart of your earthly mission and mine is to shine brightly the light of Christ within each of us, as it manifests uniquely in each of our lives through our passions, gifts, talents, and virtues. Our world needs so desperately for you and me to shine in and through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope St. John Paul II told millions of young people at World Youth Day that, “the world will offer you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!” On this journey of our earthly lives, there are many temptations for us to seek comfort over greatness. The road of Christlike greatness is a difficult one of self-denial, but in the end it is the only one that matters, the only one that will bring us true peace, joy, and fulfillment. It is by traveling this road that we will be able to change the world in some small or even magnificent way.

In order to keep our lights shining bright, in order to sustain lives of greatness over complacency, we must stay connected to our Source. In Jeremiah 17, it says, “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” Notice the verse doesn’t say “if” the heat comes, but rather “when” the heat comes. The temptations, the hardships, and tragedies of this life are sure to come, especially to those chasing after Christ, so we must be rooted in the stream of our faith.

Friends, for so much of our lives, we carry with us our childhood image of God as a stern enforcer of rules, often as a disappointed father with a list of expectations we have failed to meet. This is not an image of God that will sustain us when the heat comes. Why should it? I challenge you today to put away this false perception of God as mighty smiter, and take up the reality of God as a passionate lover who literally went to hell and back to have a relationship with you. That is what all of this is about: relationship with God, made possible through Jesus’s death and resurrection, sustained through the intimacy of receiving His body, blood, soul, and divinity from this altar at every Mass. Jesus told his disciples, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…”

Brothers and sisters, dare to be great in your lives. Realize that you have something beautiful to offer this world, and a faith that can light up any moment of darkness. Fall in love with God—your Father, Savior, Lord, and Friend. Let us live in this world, but be not of this world. At the heart of this lifestyle of self-giving love is the fruit of true intimacy with God—a divine romance that brings your soul to its feet to dance.

Thank you, congratulations, and may God be with us always. +

Healing Our Broken Vessels

Healing Our Broken Vessels

by Maurice Tenorio

Before we ask God for healing, we must consider what exactly we need healing from. Is it the same shortlist that floats at the top of our hearts and minds when we examine all that we feel keeps us distant from God? I ask you to take it a step further.

Having recently concluded the holiest week of the year, we are called to embrace the mystery of Jesus’s great love by joining in His suffering. He doesn’t ask of you a bloody sacrifice on a cross; He simply asks that you allow the wounds inflicted either by self or brought on by circumstance to be exposed and trusted to Him. We are called to acknowledge His sacrifice as one that is sufficient enough to extract us from the misery of our sufferings. This does not mean that He will take all suffering away from us, but that He can take away the misery that we experience by suffering without Him in our lives. He did not come to take our sufferings away; He came to make them possible.

A few weeks ago in our Mass readings, St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “We must profess Christ crucified…” He goes on to mention that this type of total self-donation and self-giving action was foolish to the Jews and Gentiles. Although it may have been seen as foolish then, it is still not a very popular choice of lifestyle today: to embrace the life of the cross, to not run or hide from anxiety, but rather to confront all trials and tribulations as opportunities to experience His grace. For the Christian, these become opportunities to witness His gentle hand stitching the golden thread of His mercy and compassion through the deep wounds of our lives and hearts.

To profess Christ Crucified, we must:

  1. Crucify our sins. Once we’ve become aware of our sins, we must have the resolve to say, “I’m done!”
  2. Crucify our disordered desires: impure minds and hearts; and the jealousy, hatred, resentment, and unforgiveness that we lord over our enemies. Crucify our self-hate and insecurities. Crucify the roots of all our vices. This takes courage, mainly because the death of our sins via crucifixion requires us to extract those realities that have brought us comfort and shelter from the real wounds in our hearts.
  3. Allow Christ to live through our lives. In order for this to happen, we must make room in our hearts for Him to dwell. Our good intentions have proven to get us as far as the front door of the church after confession. If He is going to live through our lives, then we must die to ourselves—GET OUT OF THE WAY and stop pointing at ourselves!
  4. Others must see less of us and more of Him. By becoming aware of our sins and “putting them to death,” we allow Him to live through our lives.  And when He has taken domain in our lives because of the permission we’ve given Him, others will come to see Him in us.

Jesus is offering you His grace and His healing; He wants to touch all that needs healing in your life. But you have to reach out for it, to begin loosening the grip of those vices in your life by exposing them for what they truly are.

Are you done defining your self-worth by your sins? Are you ready to surrender the names and titles your peers have given you? Are you done feeling like the one child your parents resent? Are you through with casual physical relationships that withdraw their promises of “love forever” just moments after? Are you done being a casualty of circumstance, whether it’s being a child of divorced parents, suffering abandonment, neglect, loneliness… Are you done with allowing fear to control every move you make? If you’re done, leave it all at the foot of His cross. Surrender all of these labels, wounds, circumstances, and past choices to Jesus today, in a moment of silent and sincere prayer.

You must surrender these things in order to find healing, in order to live a true Christlike life. At the heart of this lifestyle of self-giving love is the fruit of true intimacy with God–a divine romance that brings your soul to its feet to dance.

Take note: Intimacy is best remembered as “INTO-ME-SEE.” In order for us to fully benefit from this generous gift of God’s love, we must unlock every door in our hearts and let Him in. Not only are we being given this great gift from a self-giving God, but we too are asked to take the same risks He did: to expose ourselves to a healing love; to let Him see into us, with all our broken vessels; and to allow Him to do what He wills with the damage that has been done in our lives.

From that very fruit of intimacy with Him flows His authentic and genuine promise that you will always be held when the sacred is torn from your life—bad news, disappointments, unmet expectations, the news of death at your doorstep. The romance that our hearts pursue in the people and things of this world pales in comparison to the Love that we’ve deprived our souls from embracing.

It begins with our crosses, whatever they may be, whatever repeat offenses we’ve grown weary of asking His forgiveness for. We must trust that He will conquer.

Let the healing begin.

The Perfect Love of Jesus

The life of Jesus is a perfect demonstration of pure and beautiful love. Both His death and resurrection are testaments to the fact that His love is endless and unconditional.

It is easy to say you love someone when they love you back. On the other hand, loving those who hate you is not as natural of a task. While Jesus was on earth he was surrounded by both those who loved Him and those who despised Him. At the time of His crucifixion, however, He was abandoned by nearly all those who had claimed to love Him. Suddenly, within a matter of days, it seemed like the whole world was against Jesus. Even one of His hand-picked disciples betrayed Him. On the day He died, His followers had scattered in fear. His own people called for His crucifixion. He died a painful death on a cross, surrounded by a sea of people who doubted and despised Him. A pure and innocent man–fully God and fully human–suffered and died in a way that even the worst criminal should not be condemned to.

After all of this, He came back and gave us His heart. He came back and said to the people who had condemned Him to death, “I love you.” He showed us with His life that He loved us; with His death and resurrection, He added that His love is unconditional.

Imagine looking into the eyes of the person who has hurt you the most and telling them that you love them. But you don’t just say the words; you mean it and you want them to know that your love is genuine and pure. That is a nearly impossible task, one that even the greatest saints surely struggled to carry out. It is equally difficult from the other side. Words of love coming from a person who you believe despises you may be painful to hear and seem insincere. Yet Jesus rose from the dead and returned to His people, the very people that stood and watched as He was taken and crucified. He stood humbly before them and gave them His heart, gave us His heart. He showed that He loves us despite what has been done to Him. He forgives even the sins of those who hurt Him the most. As difficult as it may be to believe, He really does mean it, and nothing that you have done or ever will do could ever change that. He will never cease to offer His love to us. It is up to us to open our hearts and allow His love to fill us.

Jesus came back and said to us “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).  He came back and not only gave us His heart, but gave us hope. He needed us to know that there is life in Him and with Him, both in heaven and on earth. He departed, leaving behind an open invitation to share His Father and His God with us. He invites us all into heaven: those who caused Him excruciating pain and robbed Him of His life, as well as his loyal followers.

He rose so that we could see that death is not the end; so that we would know that it is possible to love and forgive even those who have done the worst to us. He came back to give us hope and show that no act is beyond the scope of His grace and love.

Our Crosses to Carry

“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?'” -Luke 9:23-25

A troubled and burdened man prayed and prayed that God would lift his burden. Day after day he prayed that his life would be easier and he begged for God’s intervention.

One day, Jesus came to the man and asked, “My child, what troubles you?” The man replied that his life was full of turmoil and that it had become too much to bear. He again asked for help stating that he just couldn’t continue to go on.

Jesus, feeling the man’s anguish, decided help was in order. The man was so happy that his prayers were about to be answered that his burden already felt lighter.

Jesus took the man to a room and stopped in front of the door. When he opened the door, what the man saw was amazing. The room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. The man, bewildered, looked at Jesus and asked how this would help him. Jesus explained that each cross represented a burden that people carry; small burdens, big burdens, giant burdens — and every burden in-between.

At this point, Jesus offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden. The man, so excited that he was finally able to have some control over his life, looked around the room for just the right cross. He saw a tiny little cross way back in the corner. It was the smallest cross in the room. After a bit of thought, he pointed to the cross and said, “That one, Lord. I want that one.” Jesus asked, “Are you sure, my son?” The man quickly replied, “Oh, yes Lord. Most definitely, yes.”

Jesus turned to the man and replied, “My child, you have chosen your own cross. It is the burden you already carry.” -Unknown Author

We don’t like the crosses we have been given to carry. They’re hard. They’re uncomfortable. They wear us out physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally… “Why THIS, God? Why have you given me THIS to bear; to struggle with? Couldn’t it have been something else? Something easier?”

I think we have all found ourselves asking similar questions of God before. We may even think that the person next to us has it way easier than we do, without knowing anything about the weight they carry. This story about the man who wanted to trade his cross for another illustrates so well a reality that God has humbled me with over and over again: that no matter how big or how heavy my crosses may be, there is always someone who has a heavier cross to carry than I do, than you do.

Now, this is not to say that the crosses you and I bear are not heavy or difficult ones. They most likely are. But the reality is that we are the created, not the Creator. We cannot possibly fully understand God’s reasons and purposes for the situations and challenges of our lives. Such an effort would be like one of Monet’s paintings trying to understand why the master artist would arrange all the colors on the canvas in this certain way. We, the creation, usually don’t get to see the bigger picture–that’s the Artist’s job. Our part is to trust in His skill and to surrender to being used for His purposes, because they are so much better than ours.

This is difficult to live out, but our willingness to bear our crosses brings God’s help to do so. Whether our cross is our state in life, our family situation, financial hardships, attraction to a particular sin, or any number of other challenges, we must remember God’s faithful promises: that He never gives us more than we can handle; that He always brings good out of even the hardest of life’s curve balls; that He has made us good, with a purpose and a mission; that He loves us more than we can ever comprehend, and that He desires for us to be happy. What most of us need is an increase in gratitude for all of God’s goodness in our lives. With every difficult cross we are given to bear comes a multitude of blessings to be thankful for.

No matter what our crosses are in this life, let us daily renew our trust in our loving God’s plans, and strive to say with St. Paul near the end of our lives:

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” -2 Timothy 4:7-8

Our Tainted Wills; Our Need for a Savior

“Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags… Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” –Isaiah 64:4-5, 7

I think the most fundamental truth that every human being must come to realize is this: we need a Savior. We are human, and as such, are imperfect in nature and will. We are all mired by the effects of sin; stuck in the quicksand of our faults and weaknesses. Although we may desire and actively strive to be free from this quicksand, it is impossible to do on our own.

Our situation is very much like the alcohol or drug addict, in that we are out of control of our own salvation. For the addict, there is nothing he or she can do to lift him or herself out of the problem. He/she tends to make the situation worse when they do try. In the twelve-step recovery program, a person having hit rock bottom must turn his or her life over to a higher power; must surrender to a force beyond his or her own will. Why? Because his or her will is the problem. We balk when we hear someone say, “I am going to solve my drug problem,” because their will is so tainted by it. An exertion of their tainted will is not going to solve the problem.

This is my situation, and your situation, in our spiritual lives. Just as the addict needs an intervention and a higher power to break in and lift the person out of the problem, so do we need a Savior to come in and heal us. We cannot achieve it on our own by an act of our own will.

The concluding verse here from Isaiah gives us a comforting image: “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”

What we need is the intervention of a loving God who will shape us anew. Because He does indeed reshape us into His beautiful instruments when we recognize these truths and surrender to Him! Do you believe this? Do you feel it in the depths of your heart that you need a Savior? This is square one for all of us who desire salvation.

As we enter into this season of Advent—this season of waiting and anticipation—let us reflect on our need of Jesus, the reason for His incarnation. If we can open ourselves to this need that we have, then we will be able to receive all that He has to offer. +

The content of this post was inspired by Father Robert Barron’s homily for the First Sunday of Advent. Listen to his moving homily here!