Perfect-ish

Sunday Readings for July 21st, 2019.

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Mary owes Martha. I don’t mean because Martha served while Mary sat. And not because Mary’s “better part” looked good compared to Martha’s complaining. No, Mary owes Martha for what Martha does at the beginning of this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

We are so familiar with this story we might miss Martha’s first action in the reading. The gospel starts with Jesus entering a village. In that village, a woman named Martha welcomes Jesus into her home. Martha invites Jesus in. 

Scripture doesn’t say, but I would venture a guess that Martha eventually introduces Jesus to her household and to Mary. Wherever the story goes from here, the fact remains that Jesus enters into the home of these sisters because Martha invited him. 

The first two lines of this gospel story points to a truth about meeting Jesus. The people in my life who have introduced me to Jesus aren’t perfect. The people who first taught me about following Jesus don’t always follow him all that well themselves. 

In stead of that being a disappointment, I think it is a calling to us not to wait to introduce others around us to Jesus. We don’t and shouldn’t wait until we are perfect disciples to introduce others to Jesus. We don’t have to wait until we have our stuff together before we welcome Jesus into our home. Invite Jesus into your life whether you are Martha or Mary. 

LIVE IT: Next time someone asks you about your weekend plans, include the fact that will be going to Mass. Then follow that up by actually doing it. 

Reach, He’s closer than you think.

Sunday Readings for July 14th, 2019.

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My eighteen month old son isn’t very good at jumping. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it is because is actually pretty bad at landing and he knows it. If he leaves his feet, it’s a near certainty that he will face plant. 

His lack of jumping and landing confidence leads to some humorous moments. Sometimes he won’t grab something above his head, even if it isn’t beyond his reach, because he just isn’t sure. My son will sometimes reach up with a crooked, alligator arm and strain towards the sky all while bending over. If he just stood straight up and extended his arm, he could easily reach his goal. 

I think we are like this in our faith lives far more often than we would like to admit. In the first reading this Sunday, from Deuteronomy, it is written,

“For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.

It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’

Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’

No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.”

When Jesus is asked in our gospel about what must we do to inherit enteral life, his answer is simple (paraphrased), “Love God all the way and Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Not complicated. Difficult at times, but not so far from us that we can’t imagine doing it. 

Sometimes we spook ourselves out of following Jesus Christ. Sometimes we imagine that loving God is so complicated and beyond our ability that we don’t do exactly what we can with what we’ve been given. 

For us baptized Christians, we have been made sons and daughters of God. We have been welcomed into God’s own family. As Catholics we receive the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ at Mass. God gives us his very Spirit over and over. When we mess up, he gives us healing and grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And yet, we whimper at trying to know God and follow Jesus. Really!?

Maybe it is as simple as this – Pray everyday. Read your Bible. Receive the Sacraments. Love (self sacrificially) whoever comes before you each moment. Standup straight and reach. 

LIVE IT: Go somewhere were you can be alone (or do this in public if you are into that kind of thing). Stand up straight. Reach up. Look up. Stretch. Keep reaching!! Up!! Whisper, “God I want to be near you!” Now say it louder if you dare. Go up on your tip toes! Now relax. Take a deep breath. Smile.  

Radical Dependence

Sunday Readings for July 7th, 2019.

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As an American, July 4th means fireworks, an abundance of grilled meats, unnecessary amounts of watermelon, and spending every moment of the day outdoors. My family wears an embarrassment of red, white, and blue apparel and we listen to both kinds of music – country and western (until John Phillip Sousa marches accompany fireworks, of course). 

While we say we are toasting our declaration of independence from stodgy ol’ Great Britain, I think secretly we are celebrating a world view that glorifies independence from jaden-hatch-b7BcALkirCc-unsplashanyone and everyone. Before we pretended to memorize the entirety of Hamilton, did any of us really think of the founding fathers on July 4th? Not really. No, our actions on
the 4th of each July, look more like a group of people ignoring the best advice of medical personnel. We eat meat and set off amateur explosives.

In the gospel this Sunday Jesus calls all those who want to join his movement to a radical way of life. I don’t just mean the normal frivolous sacrifices we sometimes associate with comfortable Christianity. I mean that to really follow Jesus means to chose radical dependence. 

To follow Jesus is to sacrifice our independence. 

Jesus sends out his followers to heal and preach with out money, walking staff, or backpack. They will be totally and completely dependent on the people the encounter. Each community that accepts them and provides for them will literally be saving their life. That kind of dependence makes for committed missionaries. 

In another sense the Christian life calls for total dependence upon God. It almost feels silly to type such a simple and obvious statement. Yet as simple and obvious as this statement is to most of us, few of us actually act like it’s true. Few of us depend upon God in any significant way. Only when crisis hits do we really seek to depend upon him. As soon as that crisis is over or we feel comforted, most of us return quickly to our self serving independence. 

If, through some strange set of circumstances, you lost every single dollar and asset you owned, who would be your first phone call? Would it be your financial advisor? Parents? Friends? Your Church community or Priest?

Now, let’s say you fell to your knees in prayer, what would you say to God? Don’t wait! Say that now! If we are going to follow Jesus well, we need to depend upon God like we don’t have anything and need everything. Being a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ takes nothing short of radical dependence. 

Seek Jesus like you’ve got nothing to loose and I guarantee he’ll find you. 

LIVE IT: On July 4th morning when you open your eyes for the first time that day, slip out of bed  and fall to your knees and declare your dependence upon God, to God in prayer. Extra Credit – Tell someone about your prayer (humbly, of course). 

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Home is

Sunday readings for June 30th, 2019.

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Five years ago my wife and I did a ten year anniversary trip to Europe, without our children (bless their hearts). We spent eleven glorious days in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. We ate incredible food, drank delicious wine, saw beautiful art, prayed in breathtakingly inspiring churches, and held hands more than we had in the previous ten years combined. About day four my wife started to miss our kids, but it wasn’t until day nine or so that I uttered, “I’m kinda looking forward to going home.”  

As wonderful as travel is, we humans seem to find such comfort in going home. In the midst of busy schedules there is something wholesome and heart warming when my family gets a night just to stay home and be together. I’m a pretty outgoing guy, but as I get older, I seem to appreciate more when my plans get cancelled I just have to stay home. 

In the gospel Jesus is denied entry into a Samaritan town. The disciples ask if he wants them to call down fire and destroy the town (can they do that?!?). Jesus rebukes them and eventually  responds to a follower stating his dedication, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” One way to read this is that Jesus is saying he doesn’t have a home. In so many ways this makes sense, Jesus is exercising his earthly ministry as an itinerant preacher. Jesus doesn’t stay in any one place for very long, but continues to heal, preach, and drive out demons on his way to Jerusalem and the cross.

Yet, I think it is wrong to say Jesus doesn’t have any place he calls home. Jesus finds his home in his mission. If Jesus’ mission is bringing God into the hearts of humans and bringing humans into the very heart of God, then whenever and wherever Jesus is seeking to fulfill this mission is home. 

Moreover, home for Jesus is the perfect unity of the Trinity. Jesus doesn’t have a home where he can rest his head because Jesus himself isn’t a building where he eats and sleeps. Jesus himself is home. 

If we want to follow Jesus like the eager disciple who exclaims, “I will follow you wherever you go,” then we must consider having the same home as Jesus. If disciples seek to imitate the master, then as disciples, we must seek to find our home in the mission of Jesus and the Church, not in a particular building. If we want to be like Christ, we must look for our home in the heart of God. 

Live It: Go to church 1 extra time this week. If you have an adoration chapel, pop in there. If not, just head into your main worship space.  Sit in a chair or pew, close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths, and then pray, “Lord make me at home in your heart and in your mission.” Repeat as necessary.  

 

Unsatisfied? Really?!

Sunday Readings for June 23rd, 2019.

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Last week a friend of mine and I went to dinner at one of the top restaurants in the state of Minnesota. When this restaurant opened, it was heralded as the number one new restaurant that year. The chef is a James Beard award winner. The room is elegant and simple, as is the food. Our meal was spectacular. One of my finest dining experiences ever. 

Later, when asked about my meal, I raved. But then I made some small critique of one of the salads and one of the opening plates. The food and the restaurant were phenomenal, but my small criticisms seemed to indicate that I wasn’t exactly satisfied. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain pressure to be critical. It’s as if to demonstrate my sophistication, I need to criticize everything I experience. If I enjoy something or I am too positive, it almost feels like I haven’t really examined it yet. If I don’t hold a negative opinion, I am base, lowbrow, and simple. Negativity is the sign of the cultured sophisticate. 

Unfortunately I think this attitude and disposition towards negativity can invade our faith. I can’t tell you how many times in a Bible study I’ve heard someone (sometimes myself) critique the author and fail to examine what the text is trying to teach about God. It’s almost like we are saying, my opinion about this author or program or situation is proof I am a discerning Christian who cares. But in reality we are often so busy critiquing that we miss being blessed by God.

If I can be so bold, I think this attitude and behavior is most often exhibited by us when we talk about the Mass. I know people who always seem to have something negative to say about the homily or the music or the worship space or the vestments whenever they walk out of Mass. In fact, I think judging Mass has reached an epidemic level. And in all honesty, I’m the number one offender.

At Mass, Heaven and Earth meet. Really. The God of the universe becomes bread and wine for us to consume and we are physically united with our Creator. Really. God invites us into the inner life of the Trinity. Really. With every single Saint who has ever lived, we worship Jesus who died on a cross to save us from death. Really. We are drawn into intimate communion with all of our brothers and sisters in faith. Really. And after all that, we leave unsatisfied? Really?!

We eat donuts and complain about the length of this or the music of that, but in reality we are missing God smack in our faces. 

Do we have things we could do better? Sure, no doubt. And we all have preferences when it comes to what helps us encounter God at Mass. But do we really think that our satisfaction is an indication of whether God was present to us or not at Mass? Really?!

The reality is that God is powerfully, intimately, and transcendently present to us in the Mass. God is in the proclaimed words of scripture and the Eucharist. If we can be humble enough to put aside our sophistication, we can experience the same satisfaction of the 5000+ plus who were fed multiplied loaves and fish. If we want to be satisfied, we have to come on Sunday ready to worship God and seeking to forget ourselves. 

LIVE IT: On your way to Mass this week or when you enter your pew before Mass, Ask God to help you forget yourself, fully enter into worship, and to become more aware of how God wants to satisfy you. 

Post Script – I recognize my rant above (mostly directed at myself), is not the whole conversation. Certainly we can desire to celebrate Mass in a way that more perfectly demonstrates Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Volumes of books have been written about the Mass and what constitutes good liturgy. Today, this was the message I needed to hear and my gut (and the last 10 years of donut conversations) says many of you needed to hear it too. Thanks for reading and reflecting. Ck

 

You cannot bear it now.

Sunday Readings for June 16th, 2019

ray-fragapane-1483223-unsplash.jpg“Wait, everyone, I need to know what the plan is today!” This phrase is a pretty common request in my house these days. On a busy Saturday morning as we are dressed and heading out the door, it isn’t uncommon for one of my children (or me), to request to know what all the plans are for the day. 

I don’t think this is an inappropriate request. We all like to know what is planned for our days. This seems to be especially important when we aren’t the one in charge. When someone else is in control, it makes sense we would want to know what is happening.

I think the more we trust the person making the decisions, the more are willing to let go of knowing what is happening. If the person in charge has proven their ability to lead well, we are more likely to not need to know every single detail of our day. 

In the gospel Jesus says to his disciples, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” He explains that he has more to reveal to them, but they can’t hear it yet. I wonder how the disciples felt in that moment? What is like to be told they can’t handle all that Jesus wishes to tell them? 

Do you think God has told you everything you want to hear? Has God revealed perfectly his plan for your life? Have you received a detailed itinerary for the rest of your life? Yeah, me neither. 

So how do we react knowing that God isn’t telling us everything? I think the answer depends on how much we trust him. 

I think there are three general categories in which our answer can fall.

First, we trust God as much as he is willing to share his plan with us. Reflecting on my late teens and early twenties, I think I trusted God, as long as he told me what the plan was going to be. It was as if I was saying to God, “Lord, I trust you completely, now just tell me what it is I need to trust you with.” 

Second, we don’t really trust God at all. We believe we are the best judges of what is best for us and no one else, even God, should be in charge of our own life. I might not ever think this sentiment, but I certainly act like I believe it. 

Third, we trust God with control and with knowledge of the plan. In this way we might say, “God, I not only trust you with my future, but I trust that you know what is best for me and give up the desire to know what the plan is.” I think when I vowed to love my wife for the rest of our lives, I was gifted with this level of trust. 

If we want to grow in trust with God, how do we do it? Jesus clearly says that it is the Holy Spirit that helps us grow in trust and the knowledge of the truth. Lean into the Holy Spirit and ask for a spirit of trust.

LIVE IT: Trying praying this prayer from St. Augustine for 7 days straight. See what happens to your trust in God!

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. 

 

3 ways to find Peace.

Sunday Readings for June 9th, 2019.

Last Wednesday was a good day. I worked out in the morning, prayed morning prayer, jordan-wozniak-256456-unsplashgot a tremendous amount of work done, met a friend for lunch, spent time with my children and wife, hit golf balls, cut the lawn while listening to an inspiring podcast, and watched my St. Louis Blues win a Stanley Cup Finals game while sipping a cold beverage. It wasn’t my perfect day, but it was pretty darn awesome. And yet I woke up the next day with a lump of anxiety lodged in my gut. 

I examined careful the rest of the week, but found not a single anxiety producing plan. I examined my conscious to make sure I wasn’t carrying some hidden sin that was pricking my anxious heart. I didn’t but I made a point to plan a Confession time just in case. I even bravely asked my wife if everything was okay, just in case she knew. Nothing. Everything was good. The sun was shining, and I couldn’t find the cause of my fretting. So I went back to reading the news (oops). 

I don’t know about you, but for me, even on my very best days, I can feel pretty anxious. Some of my worries can easily be attributed to a source, and other times I can’t quite identify why I’m worried. Truth be told, when I can’t identify the source of worry, it is usually because I am reading the news or paying too much attention to social media, or am taking on other people’s concerns. It’s almost as if I find comfort in worry in some weird way.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus offers his disciples Peace. In fact, twice Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” to his disciples. With this Peace Jesus calls them to continue his mission of preaching the gospel and trying to save the world. Then Jesus literally breaths his Spirit into them and gives them authority to do this mission. 

Jesus wants to offer you and I that same Peace. I need it. I want it. Most of the time, I live in such a way that I deny it. Rather than receive the Peace that Jesus offers me, I try to distract myself from my daily stress and, in turn, only stress myself out more. 

If we want to receive and accept the Peace Jesus offers us, what must we do? I think there are 3 steps that will help us know the Peace of Christ. 

  1. Get Quiet – Find a small period of silence in each day. Turn off the car stereo. Hide your phone in a drawer. Turn off your TV. How can we find peace when our day is filled with noise? Maybe even make a news or information fast – don’t read the news or look at social media for 3 days or a week. See if you find some peace.
  2. Receive the Holy Spirit – Jesus Christ offers us the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity (like literally God) to be our guide, helper, and dynamic catalyst. The Holy Spirit will help us find peace if we ask. Invite the Holy Spirit into your life and then ask the Holy Spirit for peace. 
  3. Go on Mission – There could be loads of reasons why we don’t have peace, but one reason could be is that we aren’t doing what we are meant to be doing. Maybe we’re stuck in someway that isn’t God’s will. We are all called to help other know Jesus. Ask a friend how they are doing. Invite someone to Church with you. Start a Bible study or book club. Go on Mission and you might just find peace. 

LIVE IT: Choose one of the three steps above and give it a try. Or be bold and go for all three. Peace!