Weeds

July 23rd Sunday Readings.

RX-DK-CGG35206_Common_Lawn_Weeds_Dandelion_v.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.1707My favorite line in this entire gospel is, “Where do the weeds come from?” We all ask this spiritual question from time to time. Where does my desire to sin come from? Where does sin come from in the world? If God is good, why is there bad?

Jesus answers this question directly and clearly, “An enemy has done this.” The point is that the bad seed doesn’t come from God. We were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made for good. However, we were also made free. We have the ability to choose good or evil. That free will allows us to both turn away from God and to turn towards him, to love God well. If we aren’t free, we can’t love.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any new varieties of sin in my life. The same weeds sprout each time. And after years of trying to change, it can become disheartening. We can begin to think, “I am just this way. This is who I am.” The homeowner tells his servants that he isn’t the source of the weeds. God only plants good seed in our lives. We weren’t made to sin.

Best yet, God never gives up. We can’t and shouldn’t either.

Live it: Go find a mirror. Look yourself in the face. Remind yourself that God made you, God loves you, and God will never give up on you.

I am not a farmer.

July 16th Sunday Readings.

I am not a farmer. I am barely a gardener. Mostly I feed the bunny rabbits that roam Anim_Homepage.gifmy neighborhood like an emboldened street gang looking to destroy plush vegetation wherever they go. My wife seems, naturally, to know how to grow things. I just do what she says.

Sometimes Jesus’ farming parables get a little lost on me – maybe I don’t have ears to hear. This Sunday’s gospel is the classic parable of the Sower and the Seed (which, to me, sounds like the name of indie band. I digress). It seems pretty straight forward that Jesus is saying only about 25% of people who hear the good news are going to get it and follow.

The problem for me, and maybe this is my ignorance of farming, is that I don’t think that the overall premise of the story makes sense. What I know about gardening is that you don’t just walk around your property randomly throwing seeds. Like I wouldn’t trying to plant tomatoes in my driveway.

No, a reasonable farmer/gardener would either only sow seed where it would likely grow well or change the bad ground into well tilled, fertile soil. What does that mean? The sower should be turning over the path, digging up the rocks, and pulling the thorns – then sowing seeds.

What I think it means for us is that we need to be preparing the soil in our own hearts and in our world where we are planning to plant the seed of hope in the gospel. Listening to preaching or reading a spiritual book is all fine and dandy, but if haven’t prepared ourselves to really listen and reflect on what we hear/read, we won’t bear as much fruit as we could.

The absolute best way, I’ve found, to till up the soil of my heart in order to receive the gospel, is to go to Confession. Not as punishment for my sin, but as the way that my heart is turned over and prepared to be a fertile place for God’s word. The rocky sin gets removed. The habitual thorny vices are ripped out. Then there is opportunity for the seed of virtue to grow without sin getting in the way.

If I’m trying to plant the good news of the gospel in a rock hard world full of thorny people, I’m not going to have much success until I’ve earned the right to be heard and made the kind of friendships that open others to my witness.

Having said all that, last year I had a fennel bulb grow in between my driveway and cement front porch. How? I’m not sure. Sometimes all it takes is a crack and brave soul with good aim to grow the good news even in the most inhospitable of environments. So go and be bold in sowing the seed of the gospel, but trying tilling the soil first.

Live It:
Go to Confession. If it’s been a while, tell the priest that. If you aren’t Catholic, tell the priest that. If you don’t know how to go to Confession, tell the priest that. Just do it.

 

Lose.

July 2nd Sunday Readings.

When was the last time you experienced something that made you say, “That was IMG_1552amazing”? Recently, I was at a concert where the lasers, lights, music, and performance were so overwhelming that I kind of forgot where I was for a moment and just stood in awe. This past weekend I stood on the beach of a beautiful lake and got lost in the sunshine and trees and water. Playing a game with friends recently, I laughed so hard I was concerned I might pass out (seriously), and I lost track of time.

I think the experience that these moments all hold in common is this sense of forgetting myself. I was so overwhelmed with awe or joy or beauty that I lost myself. If I really think back about the most memorable and profound moments of my life (wedding day, birth of my children, etc.) those moments also seem to be when I stop thinking about myself and focus on another.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I think this experience of losing one’s self is exactly what Jesus is talking about here. In other words, when we are able to forget about what we think we want or need, only then do we get to experience a life fuller than we could ever hope for.

As good as the concert, the sunshine, and the laugher was in helping me lose myself momentarily, it is really in moments of profound prayer and in helping others that I truly forget myself. The music faded, the sun set, and the game ended, but 10 days later, I am still thinking about the moment at the end of Mass over a week ago when I prayed a prayer of surrender and I lost myself in the Eucharist and music of Mass. It’s the faces of the children in Mexico or my own children that push me outside of myself and move me to lose myself more than a mere memory.

If you want to live the fullest life possible, then give your life your life away. Lose yourself; find God.

LIVE IT: Make 15 minutes this week to go and sit in a quiet, empty Church this week. If it’s Holy Name of Jesus, make your way into the Adoration Chapel. Be silent.

Fear or Love.

June 27th Sunday Readings.

What motivates you? How often are you able to stop and ask “Why?” If you are anything like me, you don’t get the chance often enough to stop and truly evaluation your motivations. The busyness of life makes it difficult to stop and think about why we are doing what we are doing. Yet, if we want to grow as people, examining our motivations is essential.

At our best, we act out of love. Sometimes that love wells up from within us for someone else. Sometimes that love looks a lot like duty or obedience. When we sacrifice for another person, so that they have what they need, we are acting out of love. But we don’t always act out of love.

janet-leigh-psycho-fear

Sometimes, we act out of fear. If I’m honest, this motivates me more than I’d like to
admit. I’m not talking about fear of heights or spiders or clowns. More often the catchphrase of fear is, “What will they think?” If you’ve had that thought go through your head sometime this week (or this morning), you may have had a moment motivated by fear.

Yet in our gospel this Sunday Jesus says, “Fear no one.”

Why? Jesus is teaching us that we can’t be the best version of ourselves when we fear what others will think about us. How radical is this call to fear no one? Jesus tells us not to fear even those who can do us harm or kill us.

What is the benefit of fearing no one? Freedom.

When we choose to not fear others, we are choosing to be free to live a life of purpose. Only when we are free from fear of others, we are free to choose to live motivated by love.

When we are free from fear, we are free to love and that includes loving and being loved by God. Fear no one, love well.

LIVE IT: Choose a day this week to have a “Why? Day”. During the day at various times, ask yourself, “Why did I do what I just did?” Why did I wear what I wore today? Why did I eat that for lunch? Why am I working hard (or hardly working)? Ask God for the grace to choose love.

Why I’m Catholic.

June 18th Sunday Readings.

column735Every now and again, I get asked the question, “Why are you Catholic?” At the core of my answer is Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I am Catholic because I want to have an intimate, life saving, lived relationship with the God of the universe through his Son Jesus and with the Holy Spirit and there is no better way to have that than the Eucharist. How do I know that? Two reasons: 1) I’ve experienced profound intimacy with God through the Eucharist. 2) Jesus says so.

In our gospel this week, Jesus is abundantly clear. Over and over again Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” or “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Jesus isn’t speaking symbolically. He speaks this same truth multiple times and when he is done, most of his followers abandon him. Only the disciples remain when Peter says, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus meant what he said.

If the goal of what I do as a Christian is to deepen in my relationship with Jesus, then I should do what he says is the ultimate way to grow my relationship with him – the Eucharist. Jesus Christ gave himself completely on the cross for us. And it is in the Eucharist that we are able to receive him. Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said this, “We all know, when we look at the cross, how Jesus loved us.  When we look at the Eucharist we know how much He loves us now.”

I’m Catholic because I want to know, experience, and receive God’s unconditional love. eucharist-1591663_1280The Eucharist is how that happens most personally and intimately. Whether you are a regular Mass attender, haven’t been in a long time, or have never been, know this – every Mass is a miracle. Every Mass, the barrier between heaven and earth is removed, and the God of the universe comes into our midst. Jesus isn’t only there in spirit, but physically present in his body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. How amazing.

LIVE IT:
Prep for Mass this weekend by reading John 6:22-69. This piece of scripture is a talk by Jesus called “The Bread of Life Discourse.” It’s awesome.

 

P.S. – Truly, I believe there is so much more to my answer as to why I am Catholic. However, given the purpose and length expectations here, I felt like I could only share this piece. Want to know more, ask me.

I trust you (kinda).

June 11th Sunday Readings.

originalI’m scared of heights. I don’t mean I don’t like them or they make me uncomfortable. All that is true, but my fear of heights is so much more than that. When I find myself in an potentially unsafe heights situation, I loose the ability to think rationally and clearly.

One time on a high ropes course, I got about halfway up the rope ladder when I totally and complete froze up. I couldn’t move up or down. I wanted to do the ropes course, but my body wouldn’t move. I was tied into two safety lines and had a rope controlled by a climb instructor attached to my belt.

Rationally, I could say to myself, “Self. You are totally safe. You have a rope tied to you. The rope holds 500 lbs. You are safe.” I believed that the rope was there, but I couldn’t trust it. I knew it existed, but I wouldn’t trust it with my life.

Our gospel this Sunday is a familiar passage, John 3:16-18. We hear it so often that we can take what it means for granted. One of the keys to unlocking this verse is to understand what Jesus meant when he said the word “believes.” Jesus doesn’t mean the kind of belief that recognizes that God exists. The devil believes that God exists.

The kind of belief that John writes about here is putting our trust in God. In other words, everyone who puts their life into God’s hands will be saved. It is through a full submission and surrender that we are saved through Jesus Christ.

When we understand “belief” to be “acknowledgment of existence” we can be stuck in our faith or our lives just like I was stuck on that rope ladder. It is only when we believe in God so as to trust him with our lives that we can move forward fearlessly.

LIVE IT:
Go to a trusted person in our life – spouse, parent, child, friend, priest, etc. – and start a conversation by asking them this question, “What do you think it means to trust in God?”

Take a Deep Breath.

June 4th Sunday Readings.

If you are a parent, you know that the first time you heard your baby cry was a crying-newborn-baby-rexmoment of joy, relief, and gratitude. After nine months of anticipation and a bit of stress and labor at the end, the thing you are waiting to hear is that your newborn baby has taken his or her first breath. If you’ve ever had the wind knocked out of you or been caught too long underwater, you know what is like to be without air in your lungs even for a moment.

We are so used to breathing and having oxygen delivered to our bodies, that we rarely think about what it would be like to go without. Yet, we jump for joy when we hear our newborn is “breathing fine.”

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus appears to his disciples and after they rejoice in being reunited with their Lord, it says in John’s gospel that Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” At first glance this is kind of a strange moment. What did it look like? Did they think it was weird? Maybe after seeing their friend raised from the dead everything else was less strange. Why did Jesus do this?

The moment reminded me of Genesis 2:7 which says, “then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” It is literally God’s breath that gives humans life. What is Jesus doing? Jesus breaths his life into the lungs of the disciples. In this moment Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

3475873851_2ffb9ba865_bJesus breaths his Holy Spirit into the disciples and invites them to participate in the continuation of his ministry. This piece of scripture is a snapshot of the first breath of the Church. Just as a newborn takes it’s first breath in, the Church takes it’s first breath from Jesus himself. Jesus gives life to the Church with air from his lungs.

With lungs filled with the breath of God, the disciples go out into the world to tell of the good news that God loves us so much he sent his Son to conquer death forever. The chest of the Church still rises and falls as the Holy Spirit gives us breath. Want to serve God and change the world? Take a deep breath (of the Holy Spirit).

LIVE IT:
Pray this prayer sometime this week (or every day this week, you do you). During Mass on Pentecost would be a pretty sweet spot to pray this during as well.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.