“Glory” is an overused song lyric.

Sunday Mass Readings for May 19th, 2019.

Some have accused the writers of old-school Top 40 songs of using the word “baby” whenever they ran out of words or ideas. I think you could make the same accusation of Christian music writers of their wild overuse of the word “glory.” It seems whenever modern Christian lyricists want to make a vague mention of God’s general goodness, they tend to lean heavily on God’s “glory.” Glory

Though we may sing of God’s glory regularly, what are we even saying?

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus uses the word glory, in one form or another, five times in two short sentences. Take that Chris Tomlin. 

What is Jesus talking about when he says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”?

Glory is great honor or renown, brilliance or great beauty. In other words, Glory is something worthy of wow. Of course, for God, what is worthy of honor or renown is not what we humans tend to recognize. 

Jesus is glorified and glorifies the Father, not in his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, but in his degrading death on the cross. Jesus is glorified at the very moment that he is lowest by human standards. Jesus is brightest, at his darkest.  

The gospel quickly pivots from Jesus and God’s glory to Jesus writing a new commandment: love one another. Why? What’s the connection between Glory and Love?

True Love – self sacrificing, death on a cross kind of love – is maybe the only thing worthy of renown. True love glows with brilliance. Anyone who has seen a new parent hold their newborn infant, when that parent comes to realize they would happily give their life for this squirmy little thing, understands that love is brilliant and beautiful and glorious. 

Vainglory is selfish. Vainglory is seeking renown from anyone who will give “likes” to anything. Vainglory calls the truly ugly, beautiful. Vainglory serves the one who seeks it. 

Glory is the byproduct of self-gift, true love, self sacrifice.

We give God glory by recognizing his great gift of love, by worshiping him with our words and hearts, and by living our life according to his great commandment – Love one another. 

Live It: Try to Worship at Mass this Sunday. Seriously. Close your eyes and pray, “Glory to you, my God.” As many times as it takes. 

My Tribe Wears Red.

Sunday Mass Readings for May 12, 2019

I own 20+ pieces of St. Louis Cardinals clothing. Every 3979746363_c4fb638fc8_bmorning, after my morning prayers, I check the score of the Cardinals game and watch the highlight reel. This spring I flew to Florida for just 2 days worth of Cardinals Spring Training. I’m a fan of my St. Louis Cardinals. I belong to the Cardinals fan family. 

When I see someone wearing a Cardinals hat or shirt, I almost always say something and they almost always respond as if we know each other, simply because we are both fans of the Cardinals. My wife thinks this is a little crazy, and maybe she’s right. But these people are my people. St. Louis Cardinal fans are one of my tribes. 

What tribe do you belong to? What group do you identify with? How does that help you know who you are? 

In the gospel this Sunday Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus is saying that he has followers, a group, a set of people that he has called. This group knows who Jesus is, recognizes his voice, and follows him. What do they get for doing this? Eternal life. Followers of Jesus never perish, are saved from death, and live forever with him in eternal bliss. 

As much as I love my Cardinals, they aren’t the group that is most important in my life. In fact, they aren’t even in my top 3. The question we all have to ask ourselves is, “To whom do we belong?” Which group that you belong to is most important in your life? What association is most important to you? 

Do you belong to Jesus Christ?

Live It: How do you find out who you belong to? Listen for a voice to call you. Plan for 10 minutes of silence today or tomorrow. Listen in silence for no less than 10 minutes and try to listen for the voice of Jesus. He is calling. 

I love you, again (and again)…

Sunday Mass Readings for May 5, 2019

There are few things you only have to say once in life. When I got down on one knee and ben-white-167548-unsplashasked my future wife to marry me, I didn’t have to repeat myself. I only had to give my mom’s eulogy once. When my wife asked the gender of our 3rd child, I only had to tell her it was a boy once – after that, she knew. 

One thing we have to profess over and over again is our love for those whom we love. When we really love someone “having” to say I love you, isn’t a burden. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. My 13 yo daughter wishes I could refrain, but most days, I can’t help but tell her how much I love and appreciate her. 

In the gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. If you read carefully you can almost hear Peter’s frustration when Jesus asks the third time. Why does Jesus do this? Peter denies Jesus three times, and this is his trifold moment of reconciliation and restoration. In another sense I think Jesus asks three times and Peter responds three times because telling someone we love them isn’t something we just do once. We have to do it again and again.

Interestingly enough, faith in God and trust in Jesus Christ isn’t something we just profess once, but something that we have to say over and over again. Why? Because faith in God and trust in Jesus is accepting and returning God’s love. Faith isn’t something we can just choose once, but something we have to choose each and every day. 

Maybe we have a moment, a story, when we, for the first time, seriously chose to make Jesus number one in our lives. The reality is that even if we have a first moment when we fell in love with the Lord, it wasn’t the last time we felt love for God. 

Why do we say the same words each week at Mass? Because these words are like saying, “I love you” over and over again to God. And more importantly, the words of the Mass is God saying to us, “I love you.” If you like hearing that you are loved, if you want to express to God that you do in fact love him, this is something we must do again and again. The best moment we do that each week is at Mass. 

Live It: Go to Mass this Weekend and when the Priest elevates the Eucharist whisper (or say in your head), “I love you, Jesus.”

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What should I do?

Dec 16th Sunday Readings.

Three groups of people ask John the Baptist the same question in this week’s gospel, gianna-trewavas-740067-unsplash“What should we do?” The gospel doesn’t tell us if they listened to what he said or liked his answer or if they went and did what he directed. 

What we do know is that after he answered, the gospel says people were filled with expectation and wondered if John might be the chosen one of God. John’s teaching was so radical and life changing that they wondered if John could be Christ.
John’s response is beautiful and powerful. He says that while he purifies with water, the Messiah will purify with fire and the spirit. In other words, the work of Christ will bring about even greater transformation, even more complete purification. 

One way to think about this gospel. This gospel is a formula for how to repent and believe in the good news. 

Step 1: Ask “What should I do?” Be direct. Ask the big question. Expect a response.

Step 2: Listen. Actually wait for a response. God works in mysterious ways and on His own timeline. Ask and and keep listening.

Step 3: Look for the messiah who will cleanse you with fire and the Spirit. Receive the Sacraments. Go to confession. Let the love of God burn up the rough, tough, and gross parts of your life and behavior.

Step 4: Preach the good news. Share what you’ve been given. Every gift of God is good enough to be shared in some way.

LIVE IT: Take some time for an honest and earnest prayer only asking one thing, “God, what do you want me to do?”

Successful Advent.

December 9th Sunday Scripture.

When it comes to success in the world, we often believe that it depends more on talent than anything else. If you’re like me, you’ve read enough blog entries and business books to know that talent and luck matter, but not as much as hard work and fast failure. You’ve probably seen the “What people thing success looks like vs. What success lookslike” drawing.Cmv8o6sWYAAVaz8.jpg

Rarely do I think we apply these same principles to our spiritual growth. I wish I could tell you that as soon as you give your life to Jesus everything will go smoothly and be easy-peasy – that’s just not the truth.

In the gospel this Sunday, the gospel writer explains the ministry of John the Baptist using the words of the prophet Isaiah. The prophesy says there will be one who will make straight the paths, fill in the valleys, lower the mountains, all so that the messiah can come. 

The first and most important thing to recognize is that the road is rough. There are valleys and difficult mountain passes. The road of the Messiah is challenging. 

Our faith journeys are challenging. The road is rough at times and there will be setbacks. If you are serious about your faith, I’m sure you could name a time that you’ve had a faith setback or a particularly difficult climb. 

When it comes to faith, we run out talent. Faith isn’t a matter of luck. And, unlike the business world, it actually doesn’t rely all that much on hard work either. Instead success in faith falls on the shoulders of two things: persistence and docility. 

It isn’t so important that we add more and more to our faith practice, but that we try faith again. When we get knocked down either by sin or by daily life, we choose to get back up and try again. When the road gets rough, we may slow down, but we always keep going. 

Docility is as simple as being supple and humble and easily formed by the Holy Spirit. Are we open to God’s word and God’s work in our lives? When God speaks, do his words find a soft landing spots in our hearts? Faithful people are docile to Spirit. Docile people receive God and then answer with their lives. 

No matter where you are in your faith journey this Advent, God wants to make straight and smooth the paths to your heard. May he find a persistent and docile heart when he arrives. 

LIVE IT: If you are in the midst of a rough road, don’t take the next exit, but stay in the roughness and let Jesus come rescue you. How? When your temper flairs, when you inclined to selfishness, when you doubt God’s love for you, when you get anxious about shopping and baking and everything, when the work hours spill into family and faith time – take 3 deep breaths and invite God in. Acknowledge things are rough and let God love you right where you are. 

It’s a trap!

December 2nd Sunday Readings.

When I was a youth minister, I once got a speeding ticket with an 8 foot tall, 200 lbs cross in the bed of my truck. I was leaving a retreat house and didn’t notice when the speed dropped 15 mph without any discernible reason. It was no coincidence that an officer of the law was ready and waiting for me to pass at an advanced speed. After politely itsatrapreceiving my ticket and getting back on the road, I did my best Admiral Ackbar impression and exclaimed, “IT’S A TRAP!”

Getting caught in a speed trap has an element of surprise and unreadiness. Traps don’t happen on accident. To set a trap for someone else is a purposeful decision. 

In the gospel Jesus warns us to beware, to prepare because Jesus’ second coming will be a surprise to all. Why do we have to choose to be prepared? Jesus explains that everyday life can be a trap. We can be lulled into the belief that everything will continue as it always has and that our comfortable, if slightly boring, waking and working and sleeping will continue perpetually. 

In the list of 3 things that can distract us from being prepared, Jesus first names carousing and drunkenness, which make sense. Then Jesus names, “the anxieties of daily life” as a thing that can keep us from being ready. Getting bogged down in the drudgery of life as it always is can keep us from being ready for the Lord. 

So how do we avoid this trap? I think the answer is to be outward focused. When we are only focused inward, on our own needs and wants, we grow in anxiety about our own hungers and thirsts. But when we focus on others, I’ve found, we lose ourselves in serving and anxieties of our daily life seem so much less important. 

Beware! Prepare! (by looking to serve selflessly the people you encounter every day.)

LIVE IT: For the first week of Advent, try approaching every person you encounter by thinking, “How can I serve this person right now? How can our encounter leave them feeling happy, holy, or healthy?”

Born to do it.

November 25th Sunday Readings.

In the early 2000s before we had kids, my wife and I took a trip to visit relatives in New peter-lewicki-411606-unsplashYork City. While there, we saw the hit musical Wicked with most of the original cast. Yes, it was awesome. Idina Menzel wowed the crowed with her vocal range and huge voice. Kristin Chenoweth was a perfect compliment to Menzel and funny in a way that made the audience feel like they were in on the joke. When I watched those two perform, I couldn’t help but think that they were doing what they were born to do. 

When we see someone do something that they both really enjoy and are wildly good at doing, it is inspiring and beautiful. Whether it is watching a MLB infield field a ground ball or a James Beard award wining chef craft a meal or your neighbor cut his grass in a perfect diamond pattern, there is something rewarding about encountering someone doing what they were born to do. 

In the gospel for November 25th, Jesus outright states what he was born to do. Jesus was born to “testify to the truth”. Jesus came to tell us the truth. Jesus mission and purpose was to tell us (and to show us) that God loves us unconditionally and will do anything to get us to return to Him. Jesus exists to tell us that though we are sinners, we are loved and accepted by God. Jesus came to give us the Sacraments, establish the Church, and to create the path by which we all can be saved. 

Jesus was born to testify to the truth. Will we listen?

LIVE IT:
It’s a noisy time of year. Make 1 car trip this week without the radio on. Listen for God’s voice he might just tell you the truth.