I could eat.

“I could eat,” is my favorite response to the question “Are you hungry?” I like this response because of how much I appreciate the act of taking a meal. There is something human about having a meal or sharing food with someone. Also it acknowledges the truth that sharing a meal and physical hunger are only weakly correlated. A meal is about so much more than simply meeting a caloric need. 

My family of origin and the family I married into understand the importance of sharing food. Okay that may be the understatement of the week for me. When I broke some rules and got in trouble my senior year of high school my punishment was that I had to be home for dinner every single night of the week. What genius. It was a painful punishment for an active and social high school kid and by it’s very nature I reconnected and my family sought to heal the broken relationship caused by my breaking of trust. 

In the gospel reading this Sunday we hear about another appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Jesus shows them his wounds and then asks for some food. They give him a baked fish and he eats in front them. What a strangely specific detail. Why would Luke include this aspect of the event? I think it is because of the importance for two things: Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the effects of sharing a meal. And I think they are related. 

It would be easy to misunderstand the resurrection. I think most of our culture does. It is assumed that Jesus was kind of like a ghost or some sort of spirit when he appeared to the disciples. The gospel writers go out of their way to demonstrate this isn’t the case. Jesus was physically, bodily resurrected. Luke even says the disciples thought he was a ghost, showing that they knew he was truly dead. Then they physically touch Jesus and even watch him eat food. Spirits don’t eat. Spirits don’t have wounds you can touch. Jesus does. The dead man really is alive again. 

Jesus eats more than once while appearing to his disciples. He eats cooked fish and breaks bread with his disciples. He wants to show them that sharing a communal meal is at the very center of Christian community. He want to show us that sharing a meal is at the center of our faith community as well. It is in these meals that Jesus’ identify is revealed to to those who don’t recognize him. It is in this meals that the reality of his bodily resurrection is confirmed. The post resurrection meals recorded in the gospels matter to the Church and to our faith. 

Mass isn’t extra. It isn’t nice that we get to do it (I mean, it is). Mass, a shared meal, is necessary for the Christian life. Mass is where we most vividly encounter the resurrected Jesus! Our communal meal is where we are fed and fortified and prepared to go try and save the world. Mass is where we realize our faith in the Father, resurrected Son, and Holy Spirit is real. Live it: Go to Mass. I get it. It may have been a while. You may not be going out to eat or going to Costco, traveling, or going to kids sporting events – in other words, avoiding crowds are all costs. But make this the first thing you do when you come back. You need Mass. 

Sunday Readings for April 18th, 2021.

You don’t even know.

I could say that I’ll never forget getting my wisdom teeth removed, but that would be a lie. Sure I remember going to St. Luke’s hospital in St. Louis, Missouri to the dental surgery floor. I remember the medical person talking to me about the Cardinal’s off season moves while she started the IV that would eventually knock me out. I remember waking up very loopy and making my parents ride the elevator up and down before heading to the car. I remember getting home and my buddy Drew bringing me a cookies and cream milk shake from Steak-n-Shake. 

I remember all that, but I don’t actually remember the removal of the wisdom teeth. I was unconscious, thank goodness. When I woke up the teeth were gone. It happened even though I didn’t remember it. The truth is that some of the details of my wisdom teeth removal, I only remember because my parents told me about them later. It’s kind of like when we remember the color of the carpet in the room where we were a baby, but only because someone showed us a picture of us in the room as an infant. 

In the gospel this week we will hear incredible stories of the resurrection. The Church remembers these stories. Not only through them being recorded in Sacred Scripture, but also in the lived Tradition of the Catholic Church. People like you and me remember these moments. They just happened to be followers of Jesus in the 1st and 2nd centuries. 

John writes at the end of this piece from his gospel that, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.” In other words there are many other things that Jesus did between his resurrection on Easter Sunday and his Ascension that aren’t recorded. Jesus performed many more miracles. He appeared to more people and in more places. 

I think this doesn’t just apply to the disciples and his immediate followers but there are many, many other moments when Jesus appears that aren’t recorded in scripture. In fact, I would say Jesus has appeared, healed, preached, ate with his followers countless times in the last 2000 years and we’ve recorded and remembered publicly very, very few of these moments.

Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He acts in the lives of his faithful followers. He speaks to us. He heals us. He forgives us. He really is truly alive and active in our lives today just as we read about in the Bible. 

A significant majority of the moments, maybe even most moments, we experience the resurrection haven’t been recorded. Just like not remembering the extraction of my wisdom teach, we don’t always remember or even realize the moment that the resurrected Lord comes into our lives and acts with saving grace. Sometimes we do feel and experience the effects of the resurrection even if we didn’t see it happen. We can know the change in our lives, even if didn’t recognize at the time how the resurrected Christ came to us. 

Do you believe that Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead, is working in your life? Do you believe he is actively preaching, healing, changing, and calling you? Do you believe in “many signs…not written” in the book of your life? Is Jesus alive?

Live It: Say this simple prayer tonight when you go to bed, “Jesus, thank you for loving and caring for me, even when I am not aware.”

Sunday Readings for April 11th, 2021.

That’s Unbelievable.

“That’s UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!” If you are sports fan you’ve probably heard the word “unbelievable” throne around a lot. Maybe the most famous USA sports call of all time was a question from Al Michaels asking, “Do you believe in miracles?” Believing the unbelievable seems to be an important aspect of the fan experience. 

When we say something is unbelievable, we often mean unlikely. When the Vikings are down by nearly a touchdown in the final seconds of a football game it is unlikely that they will win. Yet, the Minneapolis Miracle happened. Some things do happen that are so unlikely that we just can’t believe they really occurred. 

Jesus’ empty tomb could easily be labeled as unbelievable. 

What a miracle. What an incredibly unlikely thing. Maybe the most unlikely outcome of Jesus’ life from simply a human perspective. When people die, they generally stay dead. Yet, when Mary of Magdala and then Peter and John arrive at the tomb they find it empty except for the burial clothes. 

I think most of us take the reality of the empty tomb for granted. We don’t stop and think about exactly how unbelievable the resurrection really is. The truth is if there is not resurrection, if the tomb isn’t empty, then our faith is significantly impacted. Some would go so far as to say that if the tomb isn’t empty then our faith is empty. 

In the face of such an unbelievable, unlikely reality, we have to make a decision. Do we believe? Are we willing to ascent to the reports of the gospels that Jesus was raised from the dead? We have two choices. Either he rose from the dead, conquered death forever, saved all humanity, and is worthy of our worship and total devotion, OR Jesus didn’t raise from the dead and he is a dead man. Everyday you and I pick between these two choices. 

If we believe the unbelievable, we then walk into a deep and abiding relationship with the God who loves us enough to die for us. If we state with our whole being that tomb is empty and Jesus is risen, then we will be a people truly free from the bonds of death and slavery to sin. If we believe, then we can live as a people free from fear. 

If you want to be free, if you want to be truly alive, if you want to believe the unbelievable then say it with me this day, “THE TOMB IS EMPTY! ALLELUIA!! HE IS RISEN ALLELUIA!!!” 

Live It: Listen to this song Because He Lives from Matt Maher. It’s a good one. 

Easter Sunday readings for April 4th, 2021.

Why is it Good?

The other day I was leading a group of Seniors (not high school students), in Bible Study. This is a pretty loose and casual group. A lot of jokes. Many of them at my expense. Fun. But this particular week we read an excerpt of the Passion of Jesus Christ according to Mark.

Something was off. They were quiet, somber even. I asked what was wrong and didn’t get a full answer. It dawned on me, we had just read a Passion account and they were moved by Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus’ death is gruesome. He suffered much for us. It makes sense for us to be in a bit of a grim melancholy after hearing it. So why do we call Good Friday, good?

I heard a priest say that it is Jesus Christ and the Cross that makes this life good and wonderful and justified. Without Jesus and the Cross this life is meaningless and empty. The choices he says is either Jesus or nothing. 

If things in this world are good or true or beautiful, they are that precisely because of Jesus Christ and his suffering on the Cross. The Cross redeems us, certainly, but it also redeems a fallen, broken, and suffering world. 

Pain and suffering aren’t proof that a good God doesn’t exist, but instead are the very reason for which we need a God who will come and make these things make sense. God takes that which seemingly hurts us and uses it for good. He does this through the Cross. 

It is for this reason that we call Good Friday, good. The day that remembers the death of God and the great suffering of that very being who had come to save us from needless suffering and death is the ultimate good to us. It is through Jesus’ suffering that our suffering is redeemed. It is through Jesus’ death that our death is conquered. It is through Good Friday that Easter Sunday is possible. 

How much does God love you? Enough to die for you. How good is Good Friday? So good that it changes all that is bad and gives it meaning. Without Good Friday all is lost. With Good Friday all is gained. 

Live It: On Good Friday, from noon until 3 p.m. turn off any and all entertainment. No TV, no phone, no music (Mozart Requiem Mass is the exception). In the silence simply thank God for the great gift of the Cross. 

Good Friday Readings for April 2nd, 2021.

Note Bene: I will be posting an Easter Reflection on the Easter Gospel this Sunday, you know, like on Easter. Check back for that brief reflection on the Resurrection.

Material vs Supernatural

I’ve never felt the cold of Siberia. I’ve never climbed Kilimanjaro. I’ve never white water rafted down the Colorado River (but I have shot rapids on the Arkansas River in Colorado!). I trust that the stories I’ve heard and the pictures I’ve seen are real. I put faith in the people who have recorded these things and reported them to me. I’ve never actually experienced them for myself.

Just being alive takes faith. 

Believing that my next breath will have enough oxygen for my to survive or that my next bite of food isn’t poisoned is an act of faith. In this way, everyone has faith. Everyone puts their faith into something.

Increasingly, people are only putting their faith in things they can experience. It seems that even people of Christian faith would prefer to only believe in a radically material Christianity. For the materialist, Jesus is just human and the miracles of the scriptures (and the last 2000 years) can all be explained away with “natural” explanations. 

But the truth is that this material faith isn’t Christianity at all. No matter how you slice it, Christianity is a supernatural faith. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in rational thought, nor does it mean that everything that seems to be weird or out of the ordinary is supernatural. But to follow Jesus and to believe in what he teaches is to believe in the supernatural. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus proclaims that his mission is coming to an end and it is time to glorify God on the cross. Jesus laments the suffering he is about to endure, but still assents to the will of the Father. With that, a booming voice from heavens proclaims that He glorifies and will glorify.

Those who heard the voice tried to explain it away. Some said it was thunder. Others said it was an angel. While both are common ways to represent God speaking to humanity, at its root, this represents an effort to explain away a supernatural event using natural means.

Many do this same action with every single miracle of the New Testament. Thomas Jefferson had a version of the Bible where he had all the miracles and supernatural things cut out so that only the sayings of Jesus remained. 

This way of understanding Christianity and Jesus is dangerous because it isn’t true. Removing the supernatural from Christianity is wrong not only because it is an inaccurate representation of what Christianity really teaches, but also because it makes it easy to interpret Christianity as simply a lifestyle choice.

Christianity isn’t a lifestyle choice. Following Jesus is the way to survive death and be happy forever. Following Jesus Christ isn’t a nice way to get through life, but it is the greatest of joys that totally and completely changes everything about what it means to be alive. 

LIVE IT: Tonight turn off all the lights in your room, get down on your knees and pray, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24). Pray it until you mean it. 

Sunday Readings for March 21st, 2021.

I Declare Bankruptcy.

If I’m honest, I’m a big fan of the TV show The Office. I wish I was a better person and used my time for more noble pursuits, but I just really enjoy watching this show.

One of my favorite moments is when the regional manager Michael Scott runs out of money and stands up in the office and yells in a commanding voice, at the top of his lungs, “I DECARE BANKRUPTCY!!” See, he had just be told that bankruptcy was a get out of jail free card and that he wouldn’t have to pay back his debts if he just declared bankruptcy. 

Only after this public declaration did his employees explain that there is much more to declaring bankruptcy than just saying it out loud. 

You might know someone who is like this in their faith life too. Whether it is checking a box on a form or answering the new neighbor’s question about whether they belong to a Church, they will say they are Catholic. However, a simple examination of their life will show that they haven’t taken too many steps to act like a Catholic other than to declare it. 

Don’t get me wrong, a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ and the Church is important to being Catholic. We do it every single Sunday when we stand in the middle of Mass and recite the Nicene Creed together. Yes that is our altar call, that is the moment we stand and declare we are Catholic. 

It’s just that saying we are Catholic isn’t enough. Not because we have to earn salvation or earn God’s love – of course not. But because if we really believe, if we really are choosing to follow Jesus Christ, then that choice demands more than just words. 

Catholicism, like love, is something we do, not just something we feel. Catholicism and following Jesus is an active pursuit. Not because God demands it but because if we really ascent to believing in God and in what Jesus taught, then we will change our lives in response to it. 

We declare our faith with our actions. 

If I tell my wife I love her, but never acted like it, what would she think? The same is true in our faith lives. If we say we believe in God, but don’t act like God really has any say in your lives, what do we really believe?

In the gospel this Sunday we hear the famous line from the gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” What most people don’t realize is that later in the same speech Jesus explains that believing means acting. That if one believes in God and in the light of the gospel, then their actions will follow. He says this at the end of this Sunday’s gospel, “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” 

Do you believe? Live it. 

Live It: Want to know what you are supposed to go “do” as an active Catholic? You should check out what are called The Precepts of the Church. These are 5 things that the Church says are the very basic actions of Catholics. Check them out here.

Sunday Readings for March 14th, 2021.

Unexpected.

When I was about 11 years old, I was waiting outside of my elementary school. I was taking a summer science program and I had just completed my journal of native plant species. A shiny, silver, two door sports car pulls up and out of the driver’s seat pops Tony Pena. Tony was the starting catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. For a kid in St. Louis this was a big deal. It’s kind of hard to explain how amazing meeting a Major League baseball player was for me in this moment. 

Tony was picking up his son who was also there for a summer program. He graciously greeted all the children and was signing autographs. I got Tony’s signature on my native plant species project and walked home in a daze. I don’t think set that piece of construction paper down for about two weeks.

I didn’t expect to come face to face with a real, live St. Louis Cardinal that random summer afternoon. In reality nothing major actually changed in my life, but my day seemed to be totally upended and the next week was completely different than the previous or the next, just because of this unexpected encounter. 

The woman at the well in this Sunday’s gospel didn’t expect to meet anyone important when she went to go get water. In fact, she didn’t expect to meet anyone at the well. The gospel says it was about noon when she went to the well to get water. Noon wasn’t the normal time for women to get water. Typically they would do it first thing in the morning to avoid the midday heat and to have water for the day. 

Instead of no one, she encountered the most someone who has ever lived. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, came into her life. He didn’t give her an autograph, but instead offered her living water. He knew her troubles and gave her peace.

God can break into and show up in the most unexpected places in our lives. 

Imagine if we actually looked for and expected to find God. How could God work in our lives if we actually invited him in and sought to have him show up not only in the unexpected times, but always? 

Often we don’t do this because we don’t want to be disappointed. If we ask for God to come into our lives and don’t find him, we are fearful we will loose faith or have a reason to be angry at God. This is a real concern. 

The reality is that if we humbly invite God in, he will come. If we let go of our desire for the kind of control that seeks to know when and how God works and instead lets him love and heal us without us even knowing – God will do this. God wants to intimately act in our lives. God isn’t some distant Olympian deity just watching and occasionally throwing a lightning bolt. God is wildly present in our lives. If we will pay attention and invite him in, we will find him. And he will find us. 

LIVE IT: Every time you unlock your phone today say this 3 word prayer, “Come Lord Jesus.” OR Pray the prayer “Come Lord Jesus.” 100 times today. Do whichever one is more. 

Sunday Readings for March 7th, 2021.

A Tip or Trick that Works.

I’m a sucker for a tip or trick. When I see a link from a DIY magazine and the article is titled, “21 Tips and Tricks to Keep your Garage Clean,” or “13 Tips and Tricks for a Healthy Lawn,” I can’t help but click. 

The worst is when those titles are just click bait and the tips and tricks don’t work or are unrealistic. When I find that gem of an idea, go try it, and it works, oh the glory! When I find a tip or trick that actually works, it can make the difference. 

In the gospel this Sunday we read about Jesus’ transfiguration. Jesus brings his executive committee of Peter, James, and John up a mountain, and before them he is transformed. How so? He was radiant. So white, no one on earth could have bleached his clothing to that shine. With him was Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets of the Old Testament. It was a sight no human had seen to this point in history. But they would see it again. 

The Transfiguration is a prefiguring, a taste of the resurrection. It is a glimpse into the future reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter’s natural inclination is to want to erect tents and stay on the mountaintop because he understandably wants to stay in the goodness of the resurrection. Of course they must go down the mountain and complete the mission. 

The transfiguration is a reminder to us now and to the disciples then that Jesus accomplished what he came to do. The death and resurrection of Jesus works. Christianity works. God saves us. Jesus’ mission was and is a success. When we read the account of the resurrection, we are reminded that Jesus saves and the result of that salvation is glorious. 

In the midst of our daily grind and the ups and downs of our faith it can be hard to keep the goal in the forefront of our minds. The transfiguration is a glimpse into the goal that has been and will be accomplished – our resurrection. 

LIVE IT: Here are 5 Tips and Tricks for a more fulfilling faith journey. No seriously, check out this new initiative called the Synod at Home from my Archdiocese. It is a plan for families, individuals, couples, whoever, to make a faith plan for their household. It is simple in it’s idea, but seemingly effective. It’s full of Tips and Tricks. 

Sunday Readings for February 28th, 2021.

When the Desert is Good.

I was shocked to recently learn that the largest desert in the world is the Antarctic Desert. Yes, like the south pole and all that. The 2nd largest is the Arctic Desert (aka where Santa lives). They qualify as a deserts because they get less than 10 inches of precipitation each year. Usually when I think of a desert I think of sand, cactus, and tumble weeds. But the largest deserts in the world are full of ice, wind swept rocks (no sand), and are cold. 

Whether the frigid polar deserts or the sand dunes of the Sahara, deserts are not comfortable places. Typically people who are caught in a desert want to get out as soon as possible. In movies when someone is caught in a desert, they are shown trying to walk out as soon as possible. We even use the metaphor of the desert to describe unhappy or uncomfortable times in our lives and in our faith. 

So it is a bit shocking in the gospel this Sunday when we read that, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert…” Capital “S” Spirit. It is the very Spirit of God that drives Jesus into the desert. In the desert Jesus will be tempted and tried by the devil. Jesus will suffer and sacrifice for 40 days while in the desert. Yet this is all part of God’s plan. God chose for Jesus to be put into a deserted place and to be subjected to temptations from Satan. 

The thing is Jesus doesn’t run from the desert. Jesus could have walked out in 40 days. Jesus didn’t flee from God’s will even when it was uncomfortable and challenging. Jesus even allowed himself to be challenged by his enemy in that place.

I think this teaches us something about the role of desert in our life and how we should respond to it. First we shouldn’t flee. When we encounter hardship and dry times in our life, we may be tempted to flee from them. This may lead us to seek comfort in the world. Instead, I think the answer is to be still. Rather than run, we should quiet our hearts and minds and be still right where we are. This will allow God to find us. This puts us in the place to experience what God wills for us in the desert. It also demonstrates that we trust God. If God wills a desert time, then show we trust God by leaning into it instead of running from it. 

Secondly, when we encounter a desert period in our life, we should be bold. When Jesus does leave the desert following the arrest of John the baptist, he begins to boldly proclaim his role and mission in the world. Jesus comes to call us to repent, join the movement of the Kingdom of God, and boldly believe in the good news that Jesus is here to save us from death. Whatever reason the Spirit of God has for driving us into the desert, we are being formed to go and boldly proclaim the good news that Jesus is Lord. 

If the desert is ultimately a gift from God to form us into courageous sons and daughter in faith, then when we experience it, we must be still and when we exit, be bold. 

Live It: Take out our phone, open whatever calendar app you use, and schedule a 30 minute meeting with you a God for sometime this week. During that time, sit in silence, be still, and wait for God to speak to you. Make some intentional desert time this week. (If you haven’t figured out what you are doing for Lent this year, maybe commit to this once a week or 15-20 mins a day?)

Sunday Readings for February 21st, 2021.

Go-To Guy

If my snowblower won’t start, I call Brandon. When I need to haul a bunch of stuff, I call my friend Jim. When I have a question about how the economy works (or which piece of scripture best suits a question), I text Todd. These are just some of my Go-To Guys. To be honest, my list of Go-To Guys is really quite long. 

A Go-To Guy is the someone you call when you need help with something for which you are not the expert. More than that, a Go-To Guy is someone you can 100% rely on and you know that they will are willing to help even when it isn’t convenient for them. When something goes wrong, you can lean on a Go-To Guy. When something goes right a Go-To Guy is someone you want to celebrate with. And of course, Go-To Guys aren’t just gentlemen. We have plenty of Go-To Gals as well. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus goes to Simon and Andrews house. Simon’s mother-in-law has a fever. This fever was life threatening. Mark’s gospel tells us, “They immediately told him about her.” When it comes to the sick, possessed, or ailing, Jesus is the disciples Go-To Guy. 

Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and she gets up and starts making dinner. 

When word spreads the entire town starts bringing their possessed and sick to Jesus. He heals and frees one person after another. Later after spending the pre-dawn hours in prayer, Jesus explains to his disciples that preaching and healing is the purpose for which he has come. Jesus’ mission is to be the world’s Go-To Guy. 

The word that got me in this Sunday’s gospel is “immediately.” It wasn’t just that Jesus was the Go-To Guy for the disciples. They went to him immediately. 

What is our first instinct when it comes to going to Jesus? When do we go to him? Why do we go to him?

It seems to me that Jesus is our Go-To Guy for life and death. When it comes to eternal joy in the face of suffering and death, Jesus is our Go-To Guy. The key is that we turn to him immediately. He is the first call. Jesus is our primary healer. Don’t wait, run to him, immediately. 

Live It: For 1 week try a new way to pray – micro prayers. In addition to your normal prayer routine, go to Jesus with your prayers immediately and briefly. For Example: When you go to drive somewhere – Thank God your car started. Pray for someone you pass on the street. Pray for everyone inside a medical building you pass. Pray for the children when you pass by a school. Thank God for beauty when you see a snow covered tree. Make Jesus your Go-To Guy in the small stuff too. 

Sunday Readings for February 7th, 2021.