"HAPPINESS" 06/20/11

On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany, and the Protestant reformation was born.  In his attempt to reform the Catholic Church, Luther’s chose to follow the Jewish bible, meaning the Jewish faiths belief that the Old Testament contained 39 inspired books.  In making this choice, Luther revised the bible, because the bible he was reading at the time had 46 Old Testament books.


Changing the Word of Salvation, the inspired Word of God presents a two fold problem: first of all, Luther now puts himself and all those who follow him, into direct opposition with the very Church that he was ordained in and that he knew had the divine authority to bind and to loose such essential matters faith, Matthew 18:19; 18:18, because for centuries, the Church had been reading, praying, proclaiming, the Greek version of the Old Testament, the bible used by the ancient Christian Church to evangelize the world, including all the evangelists and St. Paul, called the Septuagint or the LXX, and this Greek Old Testament bible contained 46 books.


The second problem with Luther’s decision is as follows: how can a Christian’s source of revelation, their Word of God, be based on the authority of a religion that does not believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior?  Can the Muslim faith canonize the Quran as Christian scripture? The Jewish faith at the time their scriptures were canonized, at the Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90, just as today, did not believe in Jesus as Messiah, as Savior, as God.  Therefore, just as the Quran is inspired scripture for all Muslims, the Jewish canon is 100% correct and inspired in all her 39 books, for the Jewish people and faith, but not for me, I am not a Jew, I am a Christian.


The Jewish faith, rejected Jesus Christ, therefore they did not receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit as a Church teaching salvation in the name of Jesus Christ only, and therefore cannot make binding decisions on the true canon of the bible for those of us who do believe in Jesus as the only source of salvation, Christians.  The only Church that has the authority to make such decisions is the one that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church, again please read Matthew 16: 17-19, 18:18.  That is why today, over 300 million Orthodox Christians and over a billion Catholics Christians, read the bible of the ancient Christian Church, with an Old Testament containing 46 books.


Today we will read one simple but powerfully inspired verse from the Wisdom of Sirach, one of the books in the bible, excluded by Martin Luther, in his choosing to follow the Hebrew canon. The other six books in the Catholic Old Testament, not included in the Hebrew nor Protestant Old Testament are: Book of Wisdom, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, and Baruch.  Interestingly, there are also two chapters in the Book of Daniel, not included in the Hebrew bible and therefore neither in the Protestant bible, I would encourage you to read these excellent and inspired chapters.


Know also that although Martin Luther sought to remove the Book of Revelation and the Letter of James from the New Testament but his wishes were not followed. Today the vast majority of the other 30,000 Christian denominations agree with the Catholic and Orthodox Church, that there are 27 books in the New Testament and that is why the Protestant New Testament is the same as ours, meaning they follow the authority of the Catholic Church.


This brings up another interesting point: If the Catholic Church was right about the New Testament, as evidenced by the fact that today all Christian bibles contain 27 New Testament books, even though their Churches began over 1500 years after Jesus was crucified and sent the Holy Spirit, then she cannot be wrong about the Old Testament.  Being wrong about the Old Testament would call the validity of the New Testament into question, meaning that if the Catholic Church had the authority to say these and ONLY these 27 books are divinely inspired, the Word of God, and not any other of the many letters and Gospels written in the first few centuries, then she is right about all the bible not just the New Testament.


In my mind, just this one verse that I am going to share with you, from the Book of Sirach, will authenticate to you, that your Church, and not a man, Martin Luther, got it right.  This one simple but powerful verse reveals the authority bestowed upon the Catholic Church to bind and unbind, and the truth that the Book of Sirach is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to enlighten all believers, and call all the world to salvation through faith in the Father’s Lamb, Jesus Christ.


This is Sirach, chapter 2:1, “My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God. Are you smiling?  Your spirit should be smiling and saying, “Yes sir, that is 100% true, I can testify to that.”  That is my walk, that is my experience. That is the Word of God.  Trials and sufferings are a part of every human beings life, not just those who choose to serve Jesus.  Faith in Jesus Christ and the receiving of the Holy Spirit gives believers new hope, courage, guidance, and peace of heart and mind to deal with all these trials.


However, there is also a new spiritual reality that the Word of God reveals in Sirach, namely that when we lived for ourselves, when we walked in our own vineyards, without the Holy Spirit, our enemy satan, kept us sedated by feeding us more and more of the world.  Now that we serve Jesus Christ and live in and with his Spirit, the enemy will begin to use any tactic in his vast arsenal to get us back, trials all human beings face and the trials of persevering in faith.  So the Word reveals that there will be many different trials in life, and we are not to believe that when we have faith in God, all our trials will go away, no they will not go away, but now in faith, in Jesus, in the Spirit, we are prepared for and able to battle every trial we face, in a way we never could before.


In the long history of the Catholic Church, anyone who has sought to serve God, can testify to the truth of this Spirit inspired revelation.  When you serve Jesus, be aware that trials will come, and how we deal with them, will prove the depth, the maturity of ones faith.  Persevering through trails and testing, will serve as your personal testimony to the power, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ.  Let me give you one example of an individual and family, who gave their lives to Jesus, and then had to endure a series of trials that would have shaken the faith of even the strongest of believers.


Brandon and Nury Vargas are members of our ministry called the Sower. Brandon was, in his own words, a “typical Catholic,” meaning he was raised Catholic, but really knew nothing about what the Church teaches, and certainly had never met the person of Jesus Christ, and did not lead a life in the Spirit.  Brandon went to Church because his wife, Nury, who did know Jesus and lived in the Spirit, was serving in the Church.  Brandon went to Church on Sunday because of Nury and the kids but his faith was based on routine and ritual and not on metanoia, a surrender of the self and a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.


Because of this spiritual reality, Mass for Brandon was boring, he could not wait to leave and get back to his Sunday routine of watching sports on TV.  In 33 years of attending Mass, because he never really wanted to be there, Brandon never made one friend. That is a telling sign.  He did not even know the readings being proclaimed were coming from the Bible.  One day, Nury asked him to attend a Sower retreat with her, and he reluctantly agreed.  At the retreat, Brandon heard powerful testimonies and the Word of God proclaimed in a way he never had before, he heard things about the Church that had remained hidden from him for years.


At the retreat, the Word of God and the testimonies of the Sowers began to change his mind about the Church and his faith.  Brandon began to open his heart to Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit came into his heart, his metanoia had begun, and soon his heart began a transformation away from  himself to a life of service, a life oriented to others, based on his new personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.


Shortly after surrendering his life to Jesus and becoming an integral part of the Sower ministry, Brandon went back to the Church to study and receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist, sacraments which beforehand he never cared to know anything about let alone receive. This is evangelization.  Evangelization is not just for unbelievers but also for uncatechized and spiritually dead Christians too.


This is what the Sower and el Sembrador ministry does.  Through radio, TV, retreats, and our Friday praise and worship of Jesus Christ, we invite Christians and non Christians alike, to surrender their lives to Jesus in an authentic way, the way of the heart and not the lips.  In this surrender, they encounter their risen and living God and Savior and to enter into to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Now, in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God we encourage them to begin to learn the majesty of the Catholic faith, and become involved in their home parishes.


Soon after his metanoia, receiving of the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist, and getting involved in his local Catholic Church, Brandon and Nury began to go through some very difficult trials.  It is important to note that the mother of the family is the “heart” of the family and but the father is the “head” of the family, and when the “head” of a family gives his life to Jesus Christ, the family will go through many of these trials with him, because now he is beginning to be a spiritual blessing upon the family, in a way he never was before and the enemy will attack his will, trust, courage, and faith so he will stop believing in Jesus and go back to the person he was before.


After his metanoia, Brandon and Nury’s first major trial was the illness of their son Ryan.  In 2008 Ryan was diagnosed with a rare bone disorder called perthes.  Doctors recommended surgery, however the day before the surgery was supposed to take place, Ryan became ill and it was postponed.  All this time friends, family, Church, and ministry were praying for a miracle, for God’s intervention.  When the surgery was delayed, the family consulted another doctor.  The new doctor said there was no need for surgery because the bone was growing back, the family asked if he had ever seen this before, and he said no.  Amen to the Blood, Jesus had intervened, a miracle had taken place, and today Ryan is healthy, happy, and running all over the place.


Brandon and Nury’s next trial is one that millions of Americans have gone through in this latest recession, housing hardships. One day, a guy shows up at their door, and says, “This house has been foreclosed on; you have three days to get out.”  They were renters and had no place to go, again God intervened, someone at Church heard about their situation and said, “I have a home near by that you can rent.”  Turns out that the rent was cheaper than before and the new house was bigger and nicer too.  God’s presence in their trials was again manifested.


Brandon and Nury’s next trials, again like so many families these days, were financial.  On the foolish advice of a new accountant, Brandon filed for a tax refund for the year 2007.  When the IRS got involved, as usual, they said, “No you do not get a refund, in fact as we audited your books, we found out you owe us $5,000.00.  Ouch.  Around the same time, literally out of the blue, his employer began to take money out of his check, saying they had been “overpaying” him in the past, they took so much money out, he was unable to pay the bills.  Up to this point, making money had not been a problem, things were OK, rent and car payment were always on time, kids and wife had most of the things they needed, and life seemed to be good, rolling along as expected, then this happens, and it made Brandon scramble to find a way to make ends meet.


But from that moment on, things simply began to unravel financially, the new job was not covering all the bills, he had to give his car back and try to find a way to buy another car with his credit now taking a big hit, there was less money available for necessities and the entire family was suffering and having to sacrifice in ways they never had before Brandon had given his life to Jesus. At this point, many believers connect the dots, look for someone to blame, and turn away from Jesus, as we will read shortly in the Parable of the Sower.


The next trial however was by far the worst.  Brandon and Nury have two children, Tiffany and Ryan.  Tiffany began to experience a sharp pain in her legs and back, and at first the doctors could not diagnose the illness.  Finally one doctor took a blood sample and found out that Tiffany was in the late stages of leukemia.  The leukemia had already entered her spinal fluid and therefore also her brain, she was immediately admitted into the hospital, where as of this writing, she is back home, recovering from bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments.  She will have many more visits to the hospital, however today Tiffany’s hair is growing back, she is smiling and putting on precious weight and is being homed schooled by Nury and praise the name of a Jesus Christ the doctors believe she will make a full recovery.


In all their suffering, in all their trails, Brandon and Nury never turned their backs on Jesus Christ; they never “blamed” Jesus for their financial woes or for the cancer that tried to take the life of their only daughter.  Blaming God is easy to do in times of stress, suffering, and trial. God is an easy target.  He does not take revenge nor fight back, no, he is patient and loves back.  In the parable of the Sower, Jesus prophesied that many who once believed in him, in times of trial, would turn away, “Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root, they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial.” Luke 8:13.


In their suffering and trials, Brandon and Nury did not curse nor abandon Jesus because their faith did have roots, it was built on a solid foundation, a Rock, on “rich soil…bearing fruit through perseverance.” Brandon’s testimony is that without the presence of Jesus Christ in his life, he is certain that he would not have been able to withstand all these trials and sufferings and that only through his trust in Jesus was he able to be obedient to the Word of God in a way that only a true mathetes could, yes, and I am a witness to this truth, in all their suffering, in spite of all the tears and trials, Brandon and Nury never turned their backs on Jesus, they prayed, trusted, and hoped, and continued to praise and thank Jesus in all circumstances.  1 Thessalonians 5:18.


As we learned a few weeks ago: the bible reveals, as all mathetes can testify to, that satan, our spiritual enemy can thwart plans, close doors, and use other people as his ministers of deceit and division, “We decided to go to you—I, Paul, not only once but more than once—yet satan thwarted us,” 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and “For even satan masquerades as an angel of light.  So it is not strange that his ministers also masquerade at ministers of righteousness.”  2 Cor. 11:14


But we also learned that the enemy, does not have God-like power, satan did not have the power to cause Brandon to lose his job or give leukemia to Tiffany, for if that were true, we would all be out of work and in the hospital. As we taught and teach again, the greatest power satan has is what you and I choose to give him.  He does have a memory, he knows our past, he knows what has worked in the past, if those temptations do not work, he will try something new, the fool is a diabolic 7-Eleven, open for business 24 hours a day seven days a week.


So what the enemy does is he tries to use the trials that come from everyday life: illness, loneliness, financial woes, natural disasters, and turn them into hate, revenge, depression, division, slander, divorce, and apostasy.  What Brandon and Nury, countless Sowers, and millions of other Christians have testified too is that through faith in Jesus Christ, in times of trial, an authentic believer has the spiritual strength not to listen to the voice of the enemy, they have the strength not to despair, they have the strength through grace, to trust Jesus, and even to be able to rejoice in suffering, persevere through it, bearing fruits of patience, joy, and love which glorify our Heavenly Father.



So know that the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life will not make you immune to cancer, accidents, trials and temptations, floods and famine. Jesus is God, and throughout his life he experienced all these things, just as we do.  So what is the point of being a Christian and receiving the Holy Spirit, if faith in Jesus Christ means we have to suffer just like everyone else?  First and foremost is salvation/eternal life.  Secondly, every Christian who does walk in the Spirit will testify that through faith in Jesus Christ they can claim a victory over a tremendous amount of suffering: fear, addictions, inability to forgive others, jealousy, hate, greed, pride, revenge, etc.


But what other religion in the world, through their faith, receives God the Holy Spirit and are called to and capable of rejoicing in their sufferings?  Who else is able trust in God, through tears of peace as they witness the sickness of their child, a lost job, and divisions in the family?  You see, being a Christian allows us to live in and see the world and everything in it in the Light of eternity, the Light of Jesus Christ, the Light of Life, John 1:9; 3:21; 8:12; 11:25; 14:6; and through his peace and fruits of the Holy Spirit we are able to live through our earthly trials in a way that others, who does not live with this faith, with the Holy Spirit, cannot.


As your faith matures, as your capacity to receive grace is built on your new foundation of love, joy, kindness, and self-control, you will receive a wisdom from above and not of the world and you will recognize that many of the trials and sufferings you once lived with were self inflicted, wounds brought about by our living in the wrong spirit.


Yes, as we make the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the habits of our hearts, we will find that so many of our “storms,” the sufferings we lived with were a product of our own misguided thoughts and actions.  As we replace anger, jealousy, addictions, greed, pride, and overall selfishness, with patience, humility, self-control, kindness, and generosity, namely, a life in this Spirit, the old things that once made us angry and crazy, no longer have the power to do so.  As a New Creation in Christ, this can and will be your experience of faith in Jesus Christ.


Know also that as certain trials and temptations fade, new ones will appear, for example within the ministry Jesus in the Spirit sends you to serve in, there will be times of disappointment and closed doors, but brothers and sisters, do not be discouraged by this, trust in Jesus, walk in the Spirit, pray, rejoice, and believe that the Father has a plan for you, believe that Jesus is there with you in your trials and that perseverance through our trials, strengthens our faith, as the Word reveals.


There is a popular Christian Church in the Hispanic community called Pare de Sufrir, (Stop the Suffering) which proclaims to their faithful that in this Church, they will be relieved of their trials and sufferings.  This is foolishness and directly refuted by the Word of God. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trails, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, and let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:2-3.


St. Peter suffered many trials and witnessed to the same truth, “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7


The Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul, who suffered through trials of beatings, whippings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, being stoned to death, saw all these trials and afflictions in the exact same Spirit, “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Romans 5: 3-5.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.


St. Paul also saw his personal sufferings as a time of rejoicing and a way of building up the Church, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church.”  Colossians 1:24. And as we saw in our reflection on discipleship, Jesus revealed this to those who wished to follow him as mathetes, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34.


Do you see the power of this Word?   This is Jesus’ command along with the testimony of some of the greatest and most faithful Christians who have ever walked this earth.  They suffered tremendous personal trials, and yet, in all their sufferings their testimony is that by staying faithful to Jesus Christ and walking with him in the Father’s vineyard, in a Spirit of victory and joy, rather than defeat and sadness, they had the final victory, they won, yes, through faith in the Blood and Resurrection of Jesus Christ all their sufferings and trials in the end, proved to be for the PRAISE, GLORY, AND HONOR, of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Mathetes, receive this Word, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Prepare yourself as the Apostles and disciples did, in the manner Jesus taught them through the sending of the Spirit, in a way the world thinks of as folly and nonsense, with rejoicing.  Again, everyone in the world suffers in one way or another, trials and suffering are a part of the reality of all human existence, and remains that way until we enter the kingdom of God, or gets even worse, if we do not!  However only those with faith in Jesus Christ will receive the peace to see their sufferings as a time of building up their faith and Church, as a time of rejoicing, those who take Jesus Christ as Savior, will receive the peace to glorify God, reject the enemy, by rejoicing through their trials.


So when you come to serve Jesus as a Sower, as a Eucharistic minister, as a Lector, a Guadalupana, in the Knights of Columbus, as a catechist, in whichever way the Holy Spirit calls you, know for certain that the enemy is very, very angry and wants you back, this is a good thing, we want the enemy angry and not happy with us.  At one time, when we did not serve Jesus, but only ourselves, the enemy was happy with us and now he will try new tactics to get the old you back, the one who did not know Jesus, the one who did not live in the Spirit, and certainly did not serve Jesus or his Church, and he will do anything and everything within his power to hurt and deceive you.


Praise the name of Jesus Christ, through faith in Jesus, you have the victory over satan.  Like St. Peter and St. Paul we will have to fight many battles of trial and suffering, and by rejoicing through them, by staying joyful through them, boasting through them, you become the seed that fell on rich soil, who “When they heard the Word, embraced it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”  Luke 8: 11-15.


“When you come to serve the Lord prepare yourself for trials.”  Receive this Word of God with the full assurance that through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit you are always prepared.  The Holy Spirit is your armor, helmet, and sword, enabling you to stand firm in battle against the tactics of the enemy.  Ephesians 6:10-17.  Stay in the Spirit, stay on the Vine and in the vineyard, build your faith and spiritual foundation through a life of prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service, knowing that you are the Father’s gift to his Lamb, his Son Jesus Christ, and that Jesus’ final words in the Gospel of Matthew to his mathetes, are forever true and efficacious in your life, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.





Grace and peace,