Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Up in the Clouds

"You don't have to find out you're dying to start living."

These words, spoken by the late Zach Sobiech, remind us that our lives will end, regardless of whether or not we know our expiration date. Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, when he was 14. In December, his song "Clouds" went viral on YouTube. On May 3, he turned 18. And on Monday, May 20, he died.

When Zach was told that he had months to live, he turned to music to provide comfort to his friends and family--and even complete strangers. "It's more powerful than writing a letter because a song can get stuck in your head," he said. "Clouds" in particular reached across the globe, going viral and leading to a celebrity response video to show support.

Well I'll never get my chance. Be ready to live and it'll be ripped right out of my hands. How often do we take life for granted? How often do we wake up and go about our daily lives without realizing that the mere act of waking up is a blessing? Too often. We are not invincible. We will not live forever. Our lives will come to an end, no matter how often we brush away the idea of death.

And maybe someday I'll see you again. We'll float up in the clouds and we'll never see the end. Death is scary. It is scary because we don't like the unknown. But....is it really unknown? Zach's family, members of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, leaned upon their faith to get them through the periods of suffering and doubt. Zach went to morning Masses alone and even visited Lourdes, France, what he described as "possibly the most peaceful place" he had ever visited. This faith gave them the answer. Death is not unknown. Death is not the end. Death is just a transition to an even greater life. Zach, and all who have passed away, are not forgotten. They have been received into Heaven, into the clouds and into endless bliss.

We'll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer. We will each face suffering in our lives. But that doesn't mean suffering defines us. The trials of this world exist only to bring us closer to final unity with God after death. This is our ultimate goal. This is our ultimate purpose. The view will be exponentially  nicer from Heaven. This is our consolation during times of despair. Life can be difficult; but in the end, our happiness will far outweigh past suffering.

If only I had a little bit more time... If you are reading this, you are alive. If you are alive, it means you still have time. You still have time to live each day to the fullest. You still have time to spread God's light and love ceaselessly. You may not know that you have months to live. You may not have received a prognosis from a doctor. But no matter what, you are dying right now. You've been dying since the moment you were born, and what a wonderful fact this is. It means that each moment, you are closer....closer not to a dark and unknown end, but to eternal happiness in perfect union with God. Your time on earth is meant to prepare you for this union. So take Zach Sobiech's advice and start living.

Use your gifts to leave a lasting mark. Whether it be music, art, writing, or more, find your median and express the thoughts that matter, the thoughts that you don't want to regret bottling up when your time finally comes. These thoughts will be your legacy. These thoughts can change millioins of lives.

I invite each of you to take the time out of your day to watch this 22 minute documentary that highlights Zach's music, relationship with friends and family, and perspective on death. It has definitely changed my life, and I hope Zach's story can offer you similar consolation.

For more information regarding Zach's life, click here and here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our Turn

Why did Jesus have to leave us? Why did He have to ascend into Heaven?

Let me start by saying that He only left us physically. In spirit He is with us, now and forever. And this spiritual connection is stronger than anything we could ever imagine, an unbreakable and personal bond.

Jesus, by leaving, united us to God through the Holy Spirit and forged a unique connection that far surpasses any physical interaction with the human Jesus. Christ is now able to live within the hearts of each and every human. He can be everywhere at once. He has overcome death. He has proven to us that He understand all suffering we experience--and that He is greater than this suffering. Christ has risen and has conquered the trials of earth. What a beacon of hope for humanity. What a clear example of what faith in God can do.

Additionally, Jesus left us because now it is our turn. The teacher is gone; it is our turn to teach the world. The symbol of perfect love is no longer in our midst; it is our turn to reflect His love. It is our time to take the knowledge and example Jesus left us with and apply it.

Jesus has shown us how to live a holy life on earth. And after His Ascension, He shows us the benefits this holy life will bring. By giving us this example and this hope, Jesus informs us of His expectations. We  must continue his mission of love and peace. We must sacrifice and love and forgive because Jesus, our prime example of a holy life, did the same.

God is testing our knowledge. When a teacher administers a test, he does not speak. He does not give you the answers. If he is a good teacher, he has taught you the material. He has prepared you as best as he can. He hopes that you have listened to his teachings and prepared, as well. When you receive that test, he hopes that you can adequately apply the knowledge he has given you. He hopes that you can find your way...without relying solely upon him to provide all the answers. He has not abandoned you. He is still present. He is present in the knowledge you have learned, and he is watching, even if he does so silently.

Christ is our teacher, and the lessons we learn from Him make the difference between life and death, joy and suffering, and love and hatred. When God hands out the tests of our lives, He steps back, for if He were to remain by our sides too often, we would become over-reliant. We would not truly learn and apply His teachings. We would fail to recognize our duty as Christians to continue what He started, to uphold a legacy of Christ's life-giving and undying love.

God has given us a responsibility. And we are not ill-equipped. Every tool we need to accomplish His will has been made available to us. Let us venture forward on this journey Christ has prepared for us, using His footsteps as guidance. Only then can we, too, hope to ascend into Heaven and enjoy an endless, blissful union with our Savior.

Related Song:
Oh God by Citizens

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Due to end-of-year exams and projects, posts may be more intermittent over the next few weeks.

My sincerest apologies,


The Lost Sheep

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:4-7).

Jesus came for the sinners. He saves the wandering sheep at all costs. He would even leave behind 99 obedient sheep to pursue a single lost one.

This is great knowledge for the sinners. God loves us. He will do anything to bring us back to His side. He will not stop pursuing us, and He will rejoice when are once again following Him. But what about the 99 other sheep who did nothing wrong? Does Jesus not care about them? Why would He leave them to pursue one sinner? Are they getting the short end of the stick in this deal?

No. The answer lies in Isaiah 53:6.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

Each and every one of us, at some point in our lives, is that lost sheep. There is no way to get around this. We are human. We sin and fall short and wander away from God time and time again. Thankfully for us, we have a God who is willing to do anything for us, despite our past errors. He will chase after us, and, for a time, we will rejoin the 99 obedient sheep. Soon, however, we will wander off once again. And once again, Jesus will call us back to His side. That is the beauty of God's grace: it is limitless.

Treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated. It feels good knowing that Jesus would drop everything to come rescue you. It should also feel good to know that He would do the same for another wandering sheep. He would do whatever it takes for that sinner, even if it means leaving you alone for a brief moment (though you will never truly be alone).

We wander. Each and every one of us. But God brings us back to Him--or at least He tries to. The beauty of God's love is that, despite our disregard for God's will, Jesus pursues us. When we are one of the 99, we lead lives focused solely on God's plan for us. When we are that one lost sheep, God invites us to change our ways and return to Him and to the flock of joyous believers.

Jesus loves the sinner. He will do anything for that sinner, for that single lost sheep, for you and for me. He will do anything because we are worth it. We are the reason He came.