A Terrifying God.

February 25th Sunday Readings.

How do you picture God? Most of us have some image of God that we keep in our heads. ghost_of_christmas_presentMany people have either Gandalf or the ghost of Christmas present from The Muppet Christmas Carol as their base image for God.  Old.  Beard.  God.

Some people focus on Jesus, which, for many, is basically just a younger version of the old God image.  Young.   Beard.   Jesus.

Still others focus on the Holy Spirit and have a cloud or fire or maybe the wind, which is like blue lines that represent a more mystical version of God.   Mystical.    No Beard.    God.

In our Gospel this Sunday, Peter, James, and John get to see God. They witness Jesus transfigured before them. In other words, they see Jesus as he really is – God made man. What does God look like? Dazzling white. (no mention of beard).

But there is one other thing they say about the moment. When they see God they can barely speak because they are terrified. Terrified is a pretty strong response. This piece of scripture doesn’t say they were upset or amazed or found God interesting. No, their response to seeing God in his glory was to be terrified. No one is terrified of jovial old-man-beard God or blue-line-wind-spirit God.

No matter what we hold in our mind’s eye as our image of God, I bet he is a nice God. Because God is love and generous and good, we tend to also make him tame. Unfortunately this also makes God simple and maybe even strips him of some of his power.

As we read this Sunday, that image of a nice, tame, weak God is wrong. No, God is terrifying. God is scary like a good rollercoaster or like falling in love. God is the kind of terrifying that is terrific, not horrifying. To meet God face to face is thrilling.

If this is God, then the question for us is – Have you ever been terrified, thrilled, or overwhelmed in God’s presence? If meeting God is the kind of experience that leaves us speechless and trembling, have we ever experienced God in this way?

This Lent and Easter is an opportunity to experience this God, the God that thrills us and terrifies us. All we must do is follow the example of the disciples and say yes to walking up the mountain with Jesus. Our faith lives will change for good when we meet God face to face.

LIVE IT:

Make a plan to visit an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. If you’ve never done that before, there is no wrong way. Just go and focus on Jesus. Tell him you want to see his face.

More info on the Adoration Chapel at HNOJ.

Give up.

February 18th Sunday Readings.

What do you think of when you hear, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”?

For me, I get derek-story-306918worried and scared. I think, “I’m caught. He knows.” Sometimes, I even start to think of the things I’ve done wrong and worry about what Jesus, and maybe others will think once they know I am a fraud and a sinner.

It’s as if I am in a fortress and an invading general is calling for my surrender. It is as if he is calling for me give up, and open my doors so that his troops can come and take me away.
In the gospel and in our lives, the exact opposite is happening.

Instead of being the leader of the invading army, Jesus is the leader of the liberating army. In stead of screaming at the walls of my citadel for me to open my doors and receive my just punishment, Jesus proclaims with joy, “GOOD NEWS! It’s finally safe. You can come out, all will be forgiven.”

We still have to surrender. We still have to admit to my sins. We still have to give up and give in. But instead of surrendering to our enemy, we are surrendering to our savior. As long as the doors are shut to Jesus, the pestilence of sin persists. It’s not only safe to open the doors to Jesus, it is the only way we will survive.

Repent, and believe that when you do, God loves you unconditionally, and Jesus has saved you.

LIVE IT:
Repent! Step 1: make a list of the things you need to turn away from. Step 2: Confess it. (The best way, seriously, is in the Sacrament of Confession). Step 3: Believe the good news that God loves you unconditionally and you are forgiven.

The Impossible, Please.

February 11th Sunday Readings.

One of my children’s favorite books when they were little was “Papa, Please Get the 27454Moon for Me.” It is a beautifully written and illustrated book by Eric Carle. The basic premise is a child asks their father for the moon and he gets it. My children loved this book because they realized that the request was unreasonable and impossible. Yet, they also delighted in the idea that the impossible, just might happen. I liked the book because the dad is a hero.
What is interesting about he book to me is that it speaks to some truth of childhood. Sometimes small children will ask, without irony, for something that is seemingly impossible. When they ask they don’t hesitate. Whether it is a pony, a 2nd trip to Disney the day you get home from the last trip, or a new sibling, little children don’t shy away from asking for something big.
In the gospel, the man with leprosy asks Jesus for something impossible. Yes, he asks Jesus to heal his untreatable disease. But more than that, he asks Jesus to restore his place in society. He asks to be welcomed back into a community from which he was excluded because of his disease.
Jesus’ first miracle isn’t curing the man. Before Jesus removes his leprosy, he reaches out and touches the man. In reality, I bet there was a gasp from the crowd. People may have been shocked that Jesus poke to the man, but that Jesus would touch him was, well, impossible.
The man with leprosy asked for something that no one could do. He asked for the impossible. And Jesus fulfilled that request.
When we pray, what do we ask God for? Often we temper our requests before we even ask. We often ask God for the reasonable and possible. I think we temper our request because we are scared of being let down by God. We are fearful that if we ask big, God won’t pull through and our faith will be shaken. So how do we ask God for a God-sized miracle without risk? We can’t. Asking for the impossible takes a risk on our part.
What we can do is put all of it God’s hands. We can, like the leprous man, ask first that God’s will be done. Just as he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” we can say, if it is your will, grant this request Lord. Whatever we ask for, whether it is the moon or something just as impossible, we must do so with God’s will in mind.
LIVE IT:
What is the impossible that you would like to ask God for? A miraculous healing? Healing a broken relationship? Forgiving the unforgiveable? Whatever it is, ask. Ask for that God sized thing. Say something like, “God, I know if you will it, you can……..and in all thing Your will be done!”

Oprah and Purpose

February 4th Sunday Readings.

I don’t hate Oprah. I don’t know her personally and I’m not a disciple of her lifestyle 1*LrhFwqqUEA4Dk4wAerERngempire. The most I’ve encountered Oprah in the last year is when she essentially reported on California mudslides from her backyard and then she told the world she probably wasn’t going to run for president. Maybe I’m not the best kind of person to comment on her but here you go.

Oprah is a tremendous guru. Her ability to lead others, curate a world view, and pass along a particular lifestyle is nearly unmatched. I don’t follow her or know what she says, but even I have had a passing interest in her “favorite things” and her book list because they usually contain something that would make the kind of life I lead more interesting, easy, or fun. Oprah’s purpose is help others lead a comfortable life.

In the gospel this Sunday, we hear Jesus say, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Jesus states that his purpose is to preach. What Jesus is preaching is the good news that God loves us so much he would do anything to bring us back into intimate relationship. Jesus’ ultimate act of preaching was his death on the cross and his resurrection. In his death and resurrection, Jesus doesn’t just tells us that God loves us, Jesus preaches that to die for other is love. Through the resurrection, Jesus teaches that the only way to live is to die. Jesus’ purpose is to preach that if we die to self and follow him, we will be saved from death itself.

Oprah and other gurus teach their followers how to live. Jesus teaches us how to die. Jesus teaches us how to die to self and that only in dying to self can we truly live and truly love. Jesus teaches us how to love and how to receive the perfect love of God. This is an entirely different mission than any other guru.

What is your purpose? Who do you receive your mission from? Everyday we wake up and make the decision between whether we want to live for self or die to self. Everyday we wake up and reset our purpose, our mission. Jesus’ mission wasn’t to help us live a comfortable life, but to help us survive death. That same mission, to preach the good news, Jesus left for the Church – to you and me. Will you make Jesus’ mission your mission? What is your purpose?

LIVE IT:
Are you living on purpose? Take 5 minutes and quick write a short statement of your purpose in life. Don’t over think it. Then examines your life up and against that purpose statement. What needs to change?

 

Ghost Written Life

Getting back into the swing after a month off, I wrote but didn’t get this published before Sunday Jan. 28th. Take a read to see what caught my eye in this past Sunday’s readings. 

I have a friend who wrote a book in 31 days. My friend followed this schema to help him write a book efficiently. Every step of the way, my friend got to make decisions about the book. He named the main character, developed the world in which this character lived, conceived of every action and wrote every word that the main character spoke. My friend not only decided the big stuff, but the patrick-fore-381196little stuff too. Every word of the story was a decision. As author no one decided anything about this story other than him.

In our gospel this Sunday, Jesus teaches and those in the audience are astonished. They say that he teaches with authority unlike the scribes. The word authority has some funny baggage for us. When we hear the word authority, we likely think of an iron fisted, difficult, bossy-McBossy-pants.  But the root of authority is the Latin word “auctor” which means “originator.”  In this way, Jesus doesn’t teach as heavy handed demander of submission, but as originator and the writer of the teaching. His teaching isn’t something he is repeating from someone else. He is the origin of that teaching. Even when Jesus is quoting the Old Testament, Jesus is the Word that existed then and inspired those sacred writings.

The question we have to ask ourselves is who authors truth in our life. Are you the soul originator and authority in your life? Everyday we have choice to make. Am I the sole author or am I willing to give authorship of my life to Jesus Christ? If we believe God loves us more than we love ourselves, if we believe God knows us better than we know ourselves, why do we make decisions without first consulting Jesus? If you want to be happy and lead the best life you can lead, make God the author. Let God write every word of your life.

Live It:
Let God help you make 3 small decisions today. Pray for his help in making those small decisions and then make those decisions. See how inviting God into small matters helps to make him the author of larger matters.

 

Mary had it right.

December 24th Sunday Readingsangelico_annunciation

Life is complicated. Whether it is family or work or buying mustard, it seems like our daily decisions get more and more complicated each year. It can feel like the whole world is out to fool us out of our time or treasure. We’re constantly told that if we don’t do this or that, we are going to mess up our lives and miss out on being, owning, or having the best.

In the gospel this Sunday Mary shows us that faith is simple. Having faith is as simple as saying yes to God. When God asks something of us, we just say yes. It really isn’t more complicated than that. When we say no and turn away, we head down the road to unhappiness and death. When we say yes to God, we walk down the path of joy and fulfillment. Simple.

Mary doesn’t promise us it will be easy. In fact, to say yes to God is to love and to love is to sacrifice. Mary’s own life is an example of this truth. Mary watched her own son suffer and die, but her yes changed the world forever.

Mary didn’t just say yes to God with her words to Gabriel that are recorded in our gospel. Mary’s life was a yes. She eagerly strived, in her own way, to say yes to God. Saying yes to God isn’t just something we say; it is something we do.

How do we know what God is asking of us? Read scripture, pray daily, and go to Mass. What do we do when we mess up? Go to confession and give God another shot.

It’s not more complicated than that.

LIVE IT: Between today and Christ, say yes to God in prayer and ask God to show you how you can say yes with your life.

Rejoice! on purpose.

December 17th Sunday Readings.

“Rejoice always!” This Sunday we will hear this call to rejoice from St. Paul. The Churchjared-sluyter-342881 calls this Sunday Gaudate, the priests and deacons wear rose colored vestments, and we are reminded to Rejoice!

I know exactly what this looks like in children. I know what a little kid who is rejoicing looks like. Jumping up and down, boisterously shouting, maybe even fist pumps and high fives. Sometimes children even just sit and stare in unbelief in a stunned zombie like trance, overcome with joy.

While we know what it means to rejoice as a child, I think it is harder to judge what it looks like to rejoice as an adult. Sure, when our alma mater scores on the final drive to upset a hated rival, adults will jump and holler. On the day of a wedding adults will dance and raise glasses, but these are all culturally expected behaviors.

What does it look like when an adult spontaneously rejoices? I’m not sure I know the answer. But what I do know is that we have a whole host of behaviors that we do this time of year that I think are supposed to be the actions of rejoicing that seem to be so far divorced from their reasons that we forget they are actions of rejoicing all together.

As we rejoice on this third Sunday of Advent in anticipation of Christmas, what are we up to? We bake cookies, we decorate, we prepare a large meal, we exchange gifts, we see family and friends socially, we send cards, and more. Why? For me, sometimes, these actions become an end in and of themselves. We bake cookies because they are delicious and we always have. We put up a tree and decorate because we did it last year. We roast a silly amount of meat and buy much wine because people are coming over.

The reality for the Christian is that we bake, decorate, and feast because our Lord Jesus Christ has been born in Bethlehem. We rejoice because Jesus has become human. Jesus has become human to be close to us so that we can be close to God. Jesus has be born to heal, restore, and save us from death forever.

Nostalgia, pleasure, and habit aren’t good enough reasons to rejoice.

When those are our reasons for rejoicing, our joy ultimately falls flat. However, when we rejoice because the God of the universe love us so much that he puts our lives before his, then we rejoice for a right and justified reason. The reason for our celebration is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind! God is born to us!

Live It: Say a prayer of thanks when you serve the big meal, open gifts, or pour a glass of wine this Christmas. When rejoicing say, “Because of Jesus!”