About Ed Trego

Ed is a friend at my parish in the Atlanta area. He is actively involved in adult formation and is a certified Advanced Catechist in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Ed is currently studying theology through the Catholic Distance University.

Simplicity of Faith

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

Q: Who made the world?
A: God made the world.

Q: Who is God?
A: God is the creator of Heaven and earth, and of all things.

Q: What is Man?
A: Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.

Q: Why did God Make You?
A: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

Many Catholics will recognize the questions and answers above as part of the Baltimore Catechism. Originally issued by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1885, the Baltimore Catechism was used as a religious teaching document for children in Catholic schools from its’ publishing until the mid 1960’s.

As a convert to Catholicism I had never read, or even seen, the Baltimore Catechism since my baptism into the Church in 1971. I had heard of it. Mostly from those who had learned it in grade school. Most had little to say about it, so I never really looked at it until recently. I still haven’t read the entire catechism but I’m very strongly attracted to the simplicity it employed. No fancy words; no deep theological dissertations; just plain simple truth. Who made the world? God made the world. It doesn’t get much more simple than that.

For several years now I’ve been studying theology and have developed a very deep love for the subject. What better way to spend time than learning all you can about our God and Savior. I’ve read many of the early Church Fathers as well as many of the great theologians throughout history. I’ve very much enjoyed their works, even though some are admittedly quite difficult. I’ve spent many hours reading and re-reading some of Saint Augustine’s work because the depth is so great that it simply can’t be taken in by one reading. There are so many levels to his works, and to the works of many others.

The Bible is very much the same way. I’ve rarely read the scriptures without seeing something I missed the last time I read the same scripture. Or perhaps just making a connection that I hadn’t made before, increasing my understanding. There is great depth in the word of God.

Recently, a family crisis placed me on my knees before God, praying for the life and recovery of a loved one. I found that my theological studies and all of the reading I have done was useless. The words wouldn’t come. I thought of many prayers of the great theologians and spiritual writers, but they were no good either. I had to go back to the simple pleading that my heart was trying to place before God. In fact, I’m not sure the words even mattered; it was my desire for the well-being of my loved one that I, and God, were concerned with. He knew why I was before Him before I ever mouthed a word. All the fancy words and theological platitudes would have done nothing to make Him care any more than He already cared.

I’ve thought about that many times since and I’ve come to the conclusion that we are truly missing the greatest relationship we can possibly have with God if we forget the simplicity of prayer and love of God. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:1-4)

Jesus wasn’t saying we need to be childish, but child like. Children accept things as they are and trust totally. They don’t have the adult ideas and thoughts that we allow to cloud our relationship with God. We must overcome our urge to impose our wants and desires upon God’s will. Unfortunately we can never fully know or understand God’s will so we are operating out of a place of ignorance and arrogance when we propose to God how things should be.

Read the question again, “Why did God make you?” It wasn’t to outguess His will or to influence His plan for you. He didn’t make you to give advice and change to His will. He’s not all that interested in how you think things should be done. We, as humans, have a pretty miserable history when it comes to determining how things should or should not be done. God has the plan, we are simply part of it. He knows the whole story; we only gets to know bits and pieces of the story in this life. Remember the answer to the question; “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life and be happy with Him forever in heaven.”

Can you appreciate simplicity of it? We aren’t responsible for writing the entire script. We aren’t even responsible for writing our portion of the script. We are responsible to do our absolute best to understand God’s plan for us and to follow His guidance at every opportunity. We need to turn ourselves over to God’s will and let him lead this dance called life. We can never go wrong following His lead.

There is a beauty in simplicity. Jesus was not a complicated man. He was quite clear in His teachings without hidden agendas or “gotcha” moments. He knew where He stood and everyone who knew Him also knew where He stood. Whether it was driving the money-changers out of the temple or confronting the religious leaders of the time, He pulled no punches. He never hid behind ambiguity or fancy words. He told it like it was; simply and to the point.

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, Hear O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

There is no guile or confusing language here. If you love God with all you are and your neighbor as yourself, you are close to heaven. When we consider these commandments there is a lot packed into them. Stop for a moment and consider what it means to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. It means you must turn to Him in all things and ask for His guidance. It means that you don’t concern yourself with the trivial details with which we so often clutter our lives. Disregard the unnecessary and focus on the importance of your relationship with God. There is no other relationship more important.

What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? I know there are times when I don’t love myself very much. Times when I’ve sinned, again, even though I try to avoid it. Times when I’ve let my human emotions direct my actions and have taken the wrong path. However, I am a creation of God made in His likeness and image as the Baltimore Catechism says quite simply. As such, I love myself not for my failures but for the same reason that God loves me. Because He chooses to and accepts that I am an imperfect creature burdened by the plague of original sin.

We must look as our neighbors in the same way. They will fail, just as we do. They will disappoint, just as we do. Can you imagine the disappointment of God when Adam and Eve fell victim to Satan’s temptations in the Garden of Eden? Yet He still loved them, cared for them and promised a redemption for them. We too, need to give our neighbors the same love and caring. Even when they disappoint, anger, or even hurt us. They are also Gods creations, flawed by original sin just as we are. Should we not offer them the same love and forgiveness that is offered to us”

“And you will know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:4-6) Look to Jesus, He is the way. Listen to Jesus, He is the way. Obey Jesus, He is the way. Simple rules to achieve incredible results.

Don’t, however, mistake simplicity for ease. Jesus gave us some very simple rules and guidelines but He also warned us that the path would not be easy. Saying we trust and believe in Jesus and following Him is sometimes fairly simple and, at times, even easy. But there are, and will be, instances when following Jesus will be anything but easy. Heaven is filled with martyrs who shed their blood rather than give up their simple trust and belief in Jesus. We too, will most likely be asked to endure at least some hardship on our way to happiness in heaven with God. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

Live life simply; love God completely; love your neighbor as yourself; follow Christ faithfully. The way may be difficult and trying, but it will never be complicated if we focus on what is important.

Q: Why did God Make You?
A: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other fine publishers.

» Interested in the Baltimore Catechism? Look no further!

The Garden of Gethsemane

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.'” (Mark 14:33-37)

When I read this scripture, and the accounts of Jesus’ agony in the other gospels, I am overwhelmed with sadness, and in some ways, anger. Sadness that our Lord had to suffer as He did and anger that it is our failings that made it necessary. We must recognize that the sins we commit today are just as responsible for his death as were the sins of the people of his day and before. God is omnipresent, a difficult concept for humans to grasp. He is yesterday, today and tomorrow without separation. We are subject to time, we see things as a continuation of events. However, God isn’t bound by time. He sees the entirety of existence at once. He saw, at the time Jesus was praying in the garden, that our sins would add to the debt owed by humanity. We are no less guilty than those who physically betrayed Him and killed Him by nailing Him to a cross. We, no less than they, need the sacrifice of Jesus in order to gain eternal life.

Was Satan waiting for Him as Jesus entered the garden? The gospels do not say, however, I can’t help but think that he was perhaps waiting for Jesus to make one more attempt to turn Him from His mission. Just as he tempted Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, it would seem reasonable that he would take the opportunity to try again to sway Jesus from his mission.

I have found that prayerfully considering the events underlying the scripture, even placing myself in the scripture as an observer, is helpful in bible study. It provides a depth that I don’t find in just reading the scripture and moving on. In contemplating his agony in the garden I can picture how the interaction between Jesus and the Devil may have occurred.

— As Jesus went a little ways further into the garden and knelt in prayer to seek the support of his father in heaven, the evil one walked beside Him, tempting Him to give up on humanity.

“Hey Jesus” he cried, “you know these miserable creatures aren’t worth your time. For centuries they have turned from you. You know they have killed prophets and ignored your messengers throughout time. Now they are preparing to kill you as well.”

“Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me.” Jesus prayed, ignoring the taunts and temptations of Satan.

“Jesus, I can take this chalice from you,” replied Satan. “Just give up on these fools and accept the gifts I am prepared to offer. You have seen the glorious things that can be yours; take them. Man will be no worse off than they already are. Many of them have already made the choice to follow me. They are rich, they are honored by others and exercise great power. But you, you will be the greatest of all. Every man will prostrate themselves before you and you will rule the world. I can promise you this if you will worship me. All you need do is say yes and I will take you away from here and place you in ease and glory. The Romans, the Jews, the Gentiles, all will bow down before you. Caesar himself will pay homage to you. Just say the word Son of Man, and it will be so.”

His heart heavy with grief, and understanding what Satan said could be done, Jesus faced trails such as men had never faced before. For just as He was truly God, He was also truly man. And as man, He was subject to temptations just as any other man. Who of us could face the agony and death that was waiting for Him when just a simple “yes” would not only end the suffering but would leave Him in luxury forever. To deny that His temptations were lessened because of His divinity would have meant He was not fully human. The man Jesus could not have been more frightened than at that time when He knew his end was near.

Imagine knowing that tomorrow would be the day of your death. Then imagine that death would come by the most horrible means known and that even before death, you would be tortured near to the point of death, only to be saved long enough to be nailed to a cross. If someone offered you an out, would you take it? Not only a way out, but a way into the lap of luxury such that no human had ever known. Money, fame, possessions of all kinds at your disposal. The respect and fear of all persons. All readily available, just by saying yes.

Jesus, knowing all these things, chose the sacrifice for which He had come, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” He proclaimed

Finally, Satan realized that he had lost another battle. But he wouldn’t give up. After all, still to come was the trial, scourging, and carrying the cross that Jesus would be nailed upon, and finally, the horrible death of crucifixion. Yes, there would be plenty of opportunities to continue to tempt the Son of God into refusing this punishment and abandoning mankind.p>

Even as Jesus was preparing Himself for His passion and death, His disciples were sleeping. Not once but three times, Jesus asked them to watch and pray with Him. “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words, Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:38-46)

As He prepared to give humankind the greatest gift of all time, his disciples couldn’t even keep their eyes open. His agony in the garden would include betrayal and denial by those He had chosen to be his first messengers. That night, one would betray Him. One would deny even knowing Him three times. Nine of the others would abandon Him. Of the twelve, only John would remain with Him throughout his passion.

I’ve often wondered about his prayer in the garden. “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). If there was another way, why did Jesus have to die? Was there another way that would have spared Jesus this torture and death? If we acknowledge that God is all powerful and able to do all things, we have to assume He could have resolved the issue of salvation without the death of Jesus. So why did He chose this way of opening the gates of heaven to those who would believe”

If Jesus was to pay the debt owed for sin, death was that debt. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). We were not created to die, death came to us as punishment for our sins. Death was the price of our sins and to absolve that debt, death was the best way to repay it. The love of God is so incredibly great that He was willing to sacrifice his own Son to pay our debt. We are totally unworthy of the gift of Jesus’ salvation. Yet, all we need do to receive it is ask. He willingly died for us, He will joyously take us into his heavenly family and give us life eternal.

The choice is yours and mine.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other fine publishers.

Trust In God

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.” (Genesis 12:1-4)

As Christians we are called to follow the Lord. If we are to respond to that call we must trust in God. We must learn to place our desires and our will below that of God’s. That is not an easy task. We are taught from childhood to be self-reliant and to make our own way. Placing our way secondary to God’s way is not something we find easy to do. However, there is ample evidence throughout the bible that those who do so are rewarded through the blessings of God.

If someone you trusted asked you to leave everything you knew, what would you do? Leave behind your family, friends, and home; take your spouse and go to a place you had never heard of. Would you go? Would you even consider going? If you decided to go how would you explain your decision to friends and family”

“Well, the person who told me to go is someone I really trust,” you might say.

“Really, and who is this person and how do you know he will do what he says?”, you would probably be asked. Your friends and family, maybe even your spouse, would be quite skeptical of your decision. They might even seek professional help to convince you of the foolishness of your decision.

But that is exactly what God asked Abram to do. And Abram placed his trust in God. He took his wife Sarai, packed up everything they had and went where God told him to go. The story of Abram and Sarai can be found in Genesis, chapter 12 through 25. With nothing but trust in God they left the land of their family and followed where the Lord led them. No questions, no “what ifs”, just the faith that God would take care of them. The land Abram was going to was totally unknown to him and he would have had no way of knowing what he might find there. But his trust in God enabled him to follow God’s will without question.

I have a hard time picturing someone today responding as Abram did. Most of us would want a lot more information and some assurances of what we were expected to do in this new place. Would we be welcomed or would we have to fight our way in? How long will it take us to get there. How will we eat and live on the trip? What can we expect once we get there? Question after question after question would arise. But would we have the faith to go”

Abram’s trust in God was rewarded not only in his blessings but in earthly wealth. We are told in Genesis 13:2 that Abram became very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. Abram had done what God had asked and God delivered on His promises, as He always does. If we accept God and trust in Him without questioning why, he will always keep his word to us. It’s when we refuse to trust in God and try to do things our own way that we get into trouble. God will let us lead the way if we want, even though he knows full well that we will head straight into a ditch without his help. He wants to show us the way, but won’t force us to follow Him. The choice is ours.

But God was not yet through with Abram. He established a covenant with him, promising him that, even though he had been childless, his own son would be his heir and that his descendants would be as the stars in the sky. “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:4-5) Having your named changed by God is a indication of the importance of what you have done in faith to God. Remember, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter and made him the rock upon which he built his church.

He also told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a land that was not theirs for four hundred years, but that they would eventually be freed and led into a land flowing with milk and honey. This foretold the Israelites slavery in Egypt and the sojourn to the promised land. Again Abraham accepted God’s word without question. Once again God would keep his promises. Abraham’s descendants would suffer cruel slavery under the Egyptians, but would be brought to freedom and become the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.

If we were told that our family would suffer slavery, but would eventually be free and receive many blessings, how would we react? I suspect many of us would say, “No thanks.” We would choose to go on about our lives never knowing what God had in store for us. Once we refuse God’s guidance, we also refuse any blessings that God had intended for us as reward for our faith. If we wish to receive God’s blessings we must be willing to accept his will for our lives.

God would once again test the faith and loyalty of Abraham. “He said, ‘Take your son, your only begotten son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2). As if he hadn’t been through enough to prove his trust of God, Abraham was now asked to sacrifice his only son to God as a burnt offering. Yet once again Abraham trusted God without question and was prepared to accept God’s will. I can’t imagine the pain he endured during his trip to Moriah to sacrifice Isaac to God.

But God would not allow Isaac to be sacrificed. Once Abraham made ready for the sacrifice an angel of the Lord intervened and a ram was provided for the sacrifice instead. God would not allow the evil of human sacrifice. But even in this, Abraham demonstrated to God he trusted enough to do whatever God asked of him, accepting that God would never ask him to do evil. Even if he didn’t understand the good to come of his action, he accepted that it was the only outcome God would allow.

Abraham was blessed by God throughout his life because of his trust in God. He died at the age of one hundred seventy-five and was still in good health when he died. He was buried next to Sarah, his wife. His entire life was lived in trust of God, regardless of the challenges and tests he had to endure. This is the trust God wants from all of us in our lives. Unfortunately it seems that this kind of trust is virtually non-existent in our world today.

The book of Daniel, chapter three, tells of another great test of trust in God. King Nebuchadnezzar had made an image of gold that the people were required to worship. Whoever refused would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Three Israelites, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to fall down and worship the golden image. The king made ready to have them thrown into the furnace and demanded to know who the God was that would deliver them such a fate. They responded, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” (Daniel 3:17)

Their response infuriated Nebuchadnezzar, who had the furnace heated to seven times the normal temperature before having them bound and thrown into the furnace. The three walked around in the flames praising God. When the king saw what was happening, he called them from the furnace and found that the flames had not even singed a hair and there was no smell of the fire about them. The king then made a decree that anyone who spoke against the God of the Israelites would be torn limb from limb. Through their trust in God Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not only protected from the flames but won the trust and honor of the king.

Today it’s sometimes difficult to get someone to even go to Mass on Sunday as God told us to do in the third commandment. Even then, many walk in at the last minute and leave as soon as possible. If they don’t trust God enough to follow the relatively simple command to keep holy the Sabbath, how can they ever trust enough to know that God would protect them from a fiery furnace? Would we have enough trust to know that even if it were God’s will to allow us to perish in the furnace, He would still be with us and bring us to paradise with Him”

“And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And He called his disciples to him, and said to them, ‘ Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.” (Mark 12:41-44) Jesus blessed the widow who gave only a penny to the offering not because of the amount of her gift, but because of what that gift meant to her.

Many today, as in Jesus’ day, give from their abundance rather than their need. If your contribution isn’t causing you to make sure it is part of your budget instead of just what you have left over, perhaps you should reconsider. God will provide; do you trust Him enough to give of your need as the widow did”.

In our lives today we trust in many things; our family, our friends, our priests, our doctors, and even our political leaders. Mostly, however, we seem to trust only in ourselves. How many of us trust in God enough to willingly undergo hardship for Him? Would we understand and trust that God wills only good for us even though we may not understand the reasons at the time? The trust shown by Abraham, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and the poor widow who gave of her need are the examples we should follow. Pray for the strength to trust in God as they did.

“Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:4)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other fine publishers.

Against Evil

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”(Ephesians 6:10-11)

By all accounts Adolf Hitler killed nearly six million Jews during his reign. What many don’t know is that it was not the Jews alone that he brutally murdered. In addition to somewhere between five and six million Jews, he also slaughtered about two million Poles, between five hundred thousand and one million Serbs, about two hundred and fifty thousand disabled, hundreds of thousands of Free Masons, 100,000 communists, approximately 25,000 homosexual men, and about 2000 Jehovah’s Witnesses. In other words, just about anyone who didn’t fit his mold of who was worthy to be part of the Third Reich. Yet, history books of today rarely, if ever, refer to him as evil.

Joseph Stalin, in establishing communism in Russia killed somewhere between twenty and sixty million people. Still, evil is rarely the word history books use to describe him.

In 1994 Hutu “militia” killed approximately eight hundred thousand Tutsi citizens, calling them “cockroaches” as they brutally raped, beat and hacked them to death with machetes. The United Nations refused to call it a genocide; that would have required that some action be taken to stop it. Again, evil was a word rarely used except by those who suffered from the genocidal killings.

On September 11, 2001 over 3000 people died as the result of a radical Islamist terrorist attack on the United States using passenger planes as their weapons. Thousands of innocent people were murdered simply for going to work that day. The United States eventually went to war as a result and yet the word evil was rarely heard.

On December 14, 2012, a young man walked into a school in Newtown, Connecticut and brutally murdered twenty grade school children and six adults. He had earlier killed his mother in their home. Evil didn’t make it into the headlines as the cause.

In the aftermath of many of these, and other horrific events, there is virtually never a mention of the evil that prompted these actions. The news media take their usual path of speculating without facts, interviewing those who had no knowledge of the event and bringing in everyone they could find to discuss the causes and means of preventing such atrocities in the future. All in their 24/7 news style, with little regard for the families and friends of those so brutally taken.

Some call for more restrictive gun laws and some cry for better treatment of the mentally ill. Perhaps there is some benefit to be gained in each of these efforts, but what is truly troublesome is that in all of the reporting and speculating I can recall no outcry against the evil growing in our society. By all definitions, acts such as these are evil, but no one seems to realize that. Or if they do, they chose to ignore it.

From the Columbine killings to the Virginia Tech shootings, to the movie house shootings in Denver, I heard no one in the news organizations discuss the fact that there is and always has been evil in the world and those perpetrating these monstrous acts are among those who are evil. Dare I say they might even be possessed by demons”

Imagine the outrage if someone publicly stated and reported the fact that these acts were committed by evil people. If a reporter speculated that perhaps the efforts in this country to remove God from all aspects of public life was a part of the cause of these atrocities, they would be in danger of losing their job. Yet, failure to recognize and identify evil when it occurs opens the door for Satan and his minions to fill the void. However, in today’s society, acknowledging the existence of evil is not politically correct and is unacceptable in public discourse. Satan must be loving the depths to which our society has plunged. No one ever thinks to place the blame for evil squarely on his shoulders.

From all of this comes the fact that we, as a culture, fail to recognize evil in the world. Even if we should recognize it, we fail to name it for what it is. We blame a difficult childhood, or the influence of others, or virtually anything we can think of to keep from using the forbidden determination of evil. We say we can’t judge, yet to stop evil we must recognize and confront it.

“Satan made me do it” is a laughable cliché in our society. However, the fact is, Satan will take every opportunity to make us, or convince us, to commit evil. He convinced Cain to kill his brother. He convinced David to commit adultery with Bathsheba and then have her husband killed so that he could take her for his wife. Satan prompted Herod to send his troops to Bethlehem to kill all male babies in an effort to kill Jesus because he thought him a threat to his kingship. Under Satan’s direction and influence, Judas betrayed Christ. Satan convinced the Jewish religious leaders to falsely accuse Jesus of treason against Caesar in order to have him brutally murdered by hanging on a cross.

Today, we see evil wherever we look, if we only chose to look. Mostly we turn aside and pretend not to see. We find excuses for the evil that is done. We ignore the hundreds of inner city teens and children who are murdered every year. We want to find a medical or psychological illness to treat in those who would brutally abuse children rather than punish them. We’ve reached the point of not wanting to punish evil. We actually refuse to punish it in many cases, claiming the punishment is worse than the crime. We will explain it, treat it, accept it, but we are loathe to punish it.

Every year thousands of innocent babies are torn from their mother’s wombs and thrown in the trash. This is the very definition of evil. Yet it is the mothers and fathers who seek out this horror. So we call it a right to privacy; the woman’s right to choose. What of the babies rights? The most basic of all rights, the right to live is stolen and it’s legal in this country. Not only is it legal, those who speak out against it are the ones considered evil for wanting to deprive a woman of the right to kill her own child. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) I can envision Jesus welcoming these innocent souls into his kingdom. But what of those who perpetrate this evil? It is my fervent hope that they will come to realize the evil they have done and repent of their actions. Some have done so and are some of the strongest voices against the continuing evil of abortion.

What are we, as Christians, to do in a society which has chosen to force God out and ignore the presence of Satan? Can we also turn a blind eye? If we do, are we not enabling the evil of those who perpetrate these acts? Is our inaction actually encouraging their evil? Failure to confront evil makes us an enabler no less than refusing to confront the drug addition of one we love. In our society, evil is like a cancer, it continues to grow unless eliminated. We would perhaps question the mental state of one who would choose to ignore a cancer growing within them, yet we ignore the cancer growing within our society.

The starting point to correct these wrongs is within each of us. We must make a commitment to confront evil whenever possible. If we continue to remain silent our society, our culture, and our nation will suffer. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah failed to recognize this and paid a terrible price (see Genesis 19). On the other hand, the people of Nineveh chose to listen to the warning of Jonah and repented of their evil and were saved. The book of Jonah is one of the shortest books in the Bible. Take a few minutes to read it. You will read of a nation perhaps approaching the state of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet when Jonah warned of their coming doom, the people and their leaders listened and repented of their evil ways. They saved their lives and turned back to God.

We are offered the same choice as Nineveh. We can repent of the evil in our society and actually do something to stop it or we can go the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s up to us, we have the choice. God will accept whatever choice we make and we will enjoy the benefits or suffer the condemnation appropriate to that choice.

Let’s chose to be Nineveh. Let us listen to the warnings of God and change our lives. Let’s confront the evil in our society and force it out. We have the power. We can elect those leaders who will stand with us rather than those who stand against us or take no stand at all. But it requires us to be committed rather than just turn a blind eye.

Let us choose to stand with God! If we stand with Him, He will stand with us.

“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalms 34:15-17)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other fine publishers.

A Spiritual Relationship

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

Can you imagine maintaining a relationship with your spouse based on visiting for about one hour a week? The rest of the week you go about your own life with no interaction whatsoever. Oh, you may think of them occasionally but you rarely have time to actually communicate with them or get to know them better. How long do you think your marriage would last”

Isn’t that what many of us do in our relationship with God? We get up on Sunday morning, get dressed and go to church. For an hour, maybe even two, we worship our Lord. Or do we? Sitting in the pew planning the rest of the day or week really isn’t worship. Looking around to see who is or isn’t there doesn’t qualify either. Dozing off certainly isn’t a part of worship.

Finally, the recessional hymn is sung and we can leave. Many don’t even wait for the song to end. We’re out the door, in the car, perhaps cursing the person who had the nerve to think we should allow them to go ahead of us.

On the way home or to a meal we talk with our spouse. Not about the scripture readings or the homily, but about how that Jones woman was dressed; or the horrible kids that sat just two rows in front of us. And did you hear that horrible singing from the man behind us? If he can’t do any better than that, he should just hum. Or better yet, just keep his mouth shut.

It’s over for another week. We can get on with our golf game, baseball game, nap or whatever we spend the rest of the day on. In many cases we won’t even think of God until next Sunday morning. Of course, if something goes wrong, we’ll reach out to him immediately. After all, he’s supposed to watch over us. If we do pray, we’ll complain that it wasn’t answered according to our desires and wonder if God even listens to us.

For far too many people, this represents their spiritual relationship with God. There’s no communication, no friendship and no love involved. This isn’t even a casual acquaintance, nevertheless a relationship.

What if Jesus had taken this attitude toward those he came to save? Would he have turned his back on the lepers because of their diseased appearance? What about the prostitute who bathed his feet with her tears when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner didn’t bother to give him water to cleanse his feet? She may have cleansed his feet but, my goodness, she was a prostitute after all!

And of course, Matthew could never have been selected as an apostle. A tax collector as an apostle? Ridiculous! How could he possibly be one of the chosen twelve”

All those people who came to hear him at the mount should have brought their own food, right? Surely it wasn’t his place to feed them. After all, he had just given them lessons on how to enter the Kingdom of God. What more could they expect.

Of course he wouldn’t have told the Father to forgive those who carried out his execution. Maybe they didn’t know what they were doing, but if they had only listened to him, they would have.

Certainly one could say that he might have been justified in taking such an attitude. After all, most of them didn’t accept him, many of them hated him, and some conspired to have him brutally killed.

Those who did seem to care, in many cases, were looking for something from him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (Luke 6:25). The people weren’t as interested in what Jesus had to say as they were in the bread he had miraculously fed them the day before (see Luke 6:1-13). We are like them in many ways.

Move forward in time about two thousand years. What would Jesus have to say about his followers today if he took the same attitude that many of us seem to take toward him? We accept Jesus and turn to him when it is to our benefit. However, when something is required of us, we turn away. We are more than happy to accept his blessings, but not so ready to accept the possible consequences of a serious relationship with him.

If asked about your faith, what do you answer? Many would just shrug it off and respond with something nondescript. “Oh, I’m a Christian,” might be their response. But if the life they live does not show their Christianity, then they are fooling themselves and belittling the faith of those whose life does reflect their deep commitment to God. Do those who know you outside of church know of your faith? If not, why not”

There are many people who want to leave God at the doors of church and never mention him at any other time. They would be embarrassed if someone brought up the subject of God at a party or at work. They apparently assume that our relationship with God should be displayed only at Sunday Mass. We shouldn’t impose or bother anyone with our faith for the rest of the week; that would be impolite. The fact of the matter is, there are far too many who claim Christianity who never show it in their day-to-day actions.

Jesus loves us. Not just on Sunday but twenty-four hours a day every day of our life. Shouldn’t we at least try to repay his love with ours? Of course, as imperfect humans who routinely sin against God, we can’t possibly repay his love in kind. But we can make the effort. If we don’t, why should we expect him to continue to bless us and care for us”

Can you imagine a friendship based on such a one-sided relationship? If you ask a friend for a favor, they are expected to not only perform the favor but do to so with joy. However, if they should need your help, it becomes an imposition. That’s the way Jesus is approached by many who claim his as their friend.

I say friend, because Jesus truly wants to be our friend. For many, that is a very difficult concept to grasp. How can Jesus, God and the son of God lower himself to be our friend, we ask? He is God, our savior, but to see him as our friend seems difficult. Perhaps accepting him as our friend is hard because we realize that we are not worthy of such a friend. However, his love for us is so great that he wants to be all things to us. Savior, of course, but also a friend and confidant He wants to be the one we turn to in times of trouble; the one we look to for comfort when we are hurting.

For some, the idea of a relationship with Jesus as a friend is just to much to ask. They will worship him, adore him, look to him to bring them into eternal life. But they won’t recognize him as a friend who wants to share every aspect of their life. If someone gives you a few dollars to help you make it through to next payday, you accept them as a friend. Jesus paid the greatest debt possible for us, yet many can’t or won’t accept his friendship. They can’t seem to get past the formalities. They picture Jesus as someone who would give his life for them, but they can’t imagine him as someone who would sit down and have a beer with them and talk over a rough day. Yet that is exactly what Jesus would like for us to see him as. Someone who is always there, always ready to listen, and always ready to help.

There is another aspect of our relationship with God that many have difficulty with. Even those who routinely call on Jesus and seek his forgiveness and guidance have a hard time listening to his reply. Without hearing his answer, how can we expect to benefit from his love, caring, and wisdom. If you ask a friend to help and refuse to listen to the reply, of what help is that? Can we just feel, or understand the answer. No, we need to listen for the answer and take heed of it.

As Christians, we say many prayers as part of my relationship with God. Some are prayers that are said in unison with the whole church, many are said in private yet still formalized in the sense that they are said the same way by virtually all Catholics and have been for nearly two thousand years. We find beauty, comfort, forgiveness, love and mercy in these prayers. They are, in many ways, the building blocks of our relationship with God. However, we also have the opportunity to have informal conversations with God that are shared only with him. We can, and should, spend some time each evening in conversation with Jesus. It need not be formal, just a communion with our Lord. We can discuss our day, our failings and successes, and personally thank him for the many blessing he gives. Upon waking, we should again greet our Lord, thanking him for a restful night and pledging to try to serve him each day. Throughout the day, we need to take the time to speak to Him and listen for His reply. This is the way a relationship with our friends and family works, with frequent sincere communication. Our relationship with God is no different; open communication is vital to its’ success.

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Our relationship with God must recognize that we are sinners, in need of his mercy. I don’t believe that we can truly open the door to a sincere relationship with God unless we begin each and every conversation with Him by recognizing our failings and pleading for His mercy. We, just as the tax collector, must realize that we are sinners, chosen by God to be part of His family. Without his love and mercy such a relationship cannot exist.

It seems we often throw a quick prayer to God as a part of our busy day, but don’t take the time to make it a true conversation. Just as with our human relationships, our relationship with God needs to be one of caring respect. When we ask someone a question, or begin a conversation, we expect that they will reply. The same is true of our relationship with God. If we asked a question or favor, shouldn’t we want to know his response? Without it, we’ve accomplished very little in our prayers. God is always there, waiting to hear from us and willing to give us the answers we seek. But a conversation with God may not be quite what we are used to. Even though we try, we may not hear the voice of God. Rather, we need to look for signs in our life that will help us understand God’s answer to our prayers. Always know that God will answer our prayers even though we may not be aware of it at the time. I noticed in looking back over my life that it’s much easier to see God’s hand guiding or protecting me, even though I may not have known it at the time. Some answers to prayer we may not know or understand until we stand before him in eternity. It’s also important to keep in mind that the answer to our prayer may be “No”. Not everything we ask for is in the will of God and he will give us nothing but good things, whether we realize it or not.

God wants a relationship with us. He sent Jesus and allowed him to die on the cross in order to offer that opportunity to us. If we choose not to accept it, we have no one but ourselves to blame when we are turned away at judgment day. A strong spiritual relationship, based on friendship, love and, above all, trust is needed if we are to be welcomed into God’s kingdom and spend eternity with him.

Reach out to him, talk with him, listen to him. Trust him in all things. Accept his friendship and be a friend to him. This is the way to develop your relationship with God.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other fine publishers.