The Cookie Split and the Gospel

September 24th Sunday Readings.

Have you ever had to split a cookie or a piece of cake with a sibling? If you did, when youChocolate_chip_cookiewere a kid, then you may have heard what I heard as a kid, “Honey, you can split the cookie, but then your sister has the first pick of which half she wants.”

The precision to break that cookie perfectly in half so that I didn’t get cheated and my sister didn’t get more was off the charts. If I had access to a jeweler’s scale, I would have broken it out to make sure that the cookie halves were exactly even, down to the nanogram. May it was just me, but I thought even = fair.

Nobody likes to get cheated. We have a natural, God given, desire that justice is done. It’s why we get perturbed at the the guy who cuts up in the traffic back up. It’s why we can never seem to pick the right grocery store checkout line. It’s why we ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Life should be fair.

It’s why the people who work all day in Jesus’ parable get frustrated when the group that only works for a little while gets the same pay. The parable goes against our sense of fairness. So what exactly is Jesus getting at?

Jesus starts the parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” Stop right there. Jesus is comparing the kingdom to a person. the kingdom of heaven is intimate lived relationship with Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is full communion and intimacy with the Trinity. So when someone works for the kingdom, the usual daily wage isn’t gold or power or a perfectly split cookie. No, the usually daily wage is unconditional love, perfect joy, and total fulfillment. Everyone gets paid the same because everyone gets paid more than they could even want or need.

When it comes to the cookie, there is a finite amount of cookie. The more my sister got; the less I got. But when it comes to God’s love there is no limit. I can have limitless unconditional love and you can have limitless unconditional love.

With that in mind the objections of the people who worked all day isn’t justice, but jealously. They are jealous of those who received what they received but for less sacrifice.

Does being jealous make you joyful?

Of course not. God is never out done in his generosity. We will only be joyful if we are willing to accept and celebrate God’s generosity and mercy to others.

Live It:
Celebrate someone else’s victory, even if it is a small one. Send a note, buy a coffee, or say a prayer of thanks giving on their behalf – whatever will honor them.

Don’t Keep Score.

September 17th Sunday Readings.

233 Fenway Park - Scoreboard (June 2, 2007)-L-2During my marriage preparation our mentor couple told us a beautiful piece of advice – don’t keep score. Despite not yet being married, we knew exactly what that meant. If your married or have a deep friendship, than you probably know what that means too. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeking to “earn points” by doing things our spouse wants us to do. It feels natural to take away points when our spouse disappoints or hurts us. Keep score comes so naturally to us in so many areas of our life that we just naturally apply it to our relationships.

The truth is that relationships are not a competitive endeavor. No seriously. I know it’s funny to joke around about it – I certainly do that with my wife. But the reality is when we treat our spouse as our competition, as our adversary, we both loose.

In the gospel Jesus is trying to teach us that our relationships with God and with others are not competitive endeavors. No matter how many times someone else hurts us, they aren’t loosing. No matter how deeply we harm God, we aren’t down for the count. Why? Because God isn’t the divine referee. God is our Father and wants, not to have a point system with us, but instead, an intimate, lived relationship. God desires to be closer to us than we can ever imagine and keeping score just gets in the way.

God forgives you. He does. He wants to, because he wants you. We don’t go to Confession to have the score reset or to reset the clock. He go to have a conversion of heart. To turn away from keeping score and turn to acting, responding to God’s love with love. We do that by worshiping God and serving others.

The wicked servant in the story does the exact opposite. He keeps score and thus is judged by his score. Don’t keep score, love unconditionally, because God loves you first.

Live It: Do something nice for your spouse. Doesn’t matter what it is – get their car washed for them, bring them flowers, empty the dishwasher, let them pick the movie. Whatever it is, pray that you don’t do it for points, but out of love.

It Hurts.

September 3rd Sunday Readings.

hammer-thumb-ouch.jpgI’m not good at pain. When I get a cold, either I’m laid up at home and can’t do anything or I complain to my coworkers till the point they tell me to go home. My wife gently and lovingly mocks me for my over the top reactions to stubbing my toe or pinching a finger. I’m a little dramatic and I don’t handle pain very well.

The worst thing I do when I am hurt is to be upset that no one is helping me and, at the same time, tell people to stay away from me. I’ve been known to even yell at someone who is just trying to help. I know a number of people who struggle to let others help when they are hurting. Is that you too?

In our gospel this Sunday, after Jesus tells his disciples about the cross, Peter, with much gusto, tells Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Jesus rebukes him and we learn that to follow Jesus means that we too must pick up our cross. It was as if Peter was telling Jesus not to try and fulfill his mission. It was as if Peter was telling Jesus to not help while humanity was hurting.

Before we judge Peter too harshly, I think we do this too. How often do we not let God help? How often do we try to manage our pain on our own? How often do we want to control everything around us?

More than all of that, unless we fully admit that we need Jesus’ death and resurrection, we denying Jesus’ cross just as much as Peter. By admitting that we are sinners in need of a savior, we are asking for God’s grace exactly when we need it the most.

So how do we do this? When we sin, instead of running away and figuratively yelling at God to “Leave me alone!”, turn to God in prayer. Go to confession right away. Admit that you need God, especially when you are hurting.

Live It: Pray this prayer, right now, “Lord, I need you.” Say it as many times as it takes to believe it.

My kids are smart.

August 20th Sunday Readings.

GTY_child_at_chalkboard_doing_math_jt_140315_16x9_992My kids are smart. When they want something, they have developed all kinds of tricks. Like all kids, they learned early on that if mom says, “No,” go ask dad. The learned to ask “on behalf of” the other one like, “It doesn’t matter to me if we eat ice cream, but I know my sister would really like it.” And most of all they are persistent. They know if they ask enough, but not in an annoying way, there is a reasonable chance we will say yes.

At the end of the day, I take these efforts as a compliment. I feel like they know that I love them and want to provide what is best of them. They truly believe that I am not a tyrant, but a loving father. They know if they ask and it isn’t bad for them, I will likely say yes. Eventually.

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus resists giving into the request of the woman. Why? I don’t know. There are a thousand different theories, but that isn’t what matters to me in this story. For me it is the persistence of the woman that tells me how I should interact with Jesus. In the story, the woman asks that her daughter be healed of a demonic possession. Even after Jesus says, “No,” she keeps asking. Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish,” and her daughter was healed.

If nothing else this moment from Jesus’ ministry teaches me that faith is persistence. It is not giving up. Faith is constantly turning back to God with our requests because we believe that he is a loving Father who will give us every good thing we need and not a tyrant. Faith isn’t dependent on whether we are worthy or good enough, but on how much we trust God.

Faith is persistence. If we persist in prayer, we will get what we ask for or we will get our answer.

Life It: What is something good you want in your life? Open your phone and add a reminder to pray a simple prayer for that request for 30 days.

Doubt.

August 13th Sunday Readings.

baseball-umpire-out.jpgEarlier this summer, I pulled a prank on a retreat. What I did doesn’t matter. It was non destructive. It wasn’t mean. It was funny (I was told). However, in the time between when I performed the prank and the time the recipient discovered it, I was freaking out. I was worried I had gone too far. I was worried they would have hurt feelings. I was worried they weren’t going to find it funny, and it would harm our relationship. But mostly, I was worried I was going to be kicked off the retreat.

I don’t about you, but I haven’t been kicked out of many places. I haven’t been kicked off or fired from many teams or communities. I don’t know what it is like to feel that level of rejection. I can imagine it hurts.

I know some people who have felt like they have been kicked out of Church. These people felt on the outside of Church simply because they doubted. They felt like all the other people in the pews on Sunday have it all together and believe without question or hesitation. They felt like they were on the outside because they had questions.

In the gospel this week, we read the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter falling in. A one point after fishing him out of the waves, Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” This is Peter, Saint Peter, the first Pope, martyr for the faith – doubting. I’ve always thought that though he doubted he could walk on water, but the moment he started to sink, he had enough faith to cry out to Jesus for help.

Believe me when I say, doubt doesn’t put you on the outside of the Church. Questions don’t make you a bad Catholic or an irreligious person. What isn’t good is giving up on seeking the truth. Giving up and resting in the doubt versus doubting and actively searching for truth are two different things. It is the different between Peter drowning and Peter calling out for Christ to save him.

Do you doubt? So did the St. Peter. You have questions? So did the saints. You aren’t certain? Keep searching for answers. How? Start by turning to Jesus in prayer. Jesus just doesn’t have the answers – Jesus is the answer.

LIVE IT: Two steps – Step 1) Close your eyes and say this prayer, “Jesus, I do believe; help my unbelief!” Step 2) Address one of your doubts by asking your question of someone you trust. Weigh the answer. Pray about it again.

You’re Glowing.

August 6th Sunday Readings.

1505CNS-popemarried-couplesWEB2“You’re glowing.” Have you ever heard this phrase used? I’ve heard people say this to grooms and brides on their wedding day. I’ve heard people say this to pregnant women. Something about moments of incredible joy that seem to have us radiating light.

A friend of mine once told me that in Mexico the traditional way to ask a pregnant woman when she is due is, “Cuado vas a dar luz?” or “When will you bring forth the light?” The birth is a moment of brightness, of light.

In the gospel and first reading this weekend, we read about God in his glory shinning brightly. Daniel describes The Ancient one as bright white as snow sitting on a flaming throne. In the familiar story of the transfiguration, Jesus’ face “shone like the sun,” and his clothes become “white as light.” In another moment from scripture, Moses encounters God on Sinai, comes down the mountain, and the skin of his face became radiant.

A couple years ago, an acquaintance of mine heard a talk about the Eucharist and went to Eucharistic Adoration and for the first time in her life, she believed that the Eucharist really is Jesus. She walked out of the church and the first person who saw her, before they even spoke, remarked, “Wow. You’re glowing.”

I think when we encounter God in an intimate and profound way, there is a fundamental The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896change within us. That change can manifest itself in a noticeable way. People can literally see the change in us. We radiate. That light is a manifestation of receiving and giving unconditional love. That is why the newly married couple glow. That is why the mother grown a human, with a soul, within her radiates light. That is why when we encounter this God of love who would do anything to be near us, we radiate his love into the world. Let your light shine.

LIVE IT: Take sometime this week to light a candle and sit in silence. You could do this at the Adoration Chapel or in your home. Let God speak to you in the silence.

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.