Winners Fail.

March 18th Sunday Readings.



Nobody likes to fail. I don’t know about you, but I want to win every time. My reaction to Olympic events are a good example of this. When Americans won, like Team Shuster – the Men’s Curling team, I was elated and relieved and thought, “Good. Everything is right in the world.” When the Norwegians or Dutch easily captured the gold in a cross country skiing or speed skating event, I wondered what happened to my fellow Americans.

Yet Jesus says in this weekend’s gospel that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus changes the paradigm. No longer is it winners and losers, but those willing to fall and die will bear fruit.

If we want to help others, if we want our friends and family to know the saving love of Jesus, we don’t win them, we die for them. Jesus is clear that the way the victory is won is through self sacrifice. St. John Paul II beautifully said, “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.” That sounds like winning to me.

Jesus is clear about one more thing. Jesus is going demonstrate and be the example per-excel-lance of this form of sacrificial love. Jesus will fall like a grain of wheat and die. Through that death will come life for us.

LIVE IT: Holy Week is coming. Start now to think about Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. Remember God wants to do something for you this Easter. Healing, restoration, rest, peace, joy, whatever it is, Jesus wants to give you a tremendous gift this Holy Week and Easter.

What’s your slogan?

March 11th, Sunday Readings.



When I was kid, I was a  Boy Scout. This was back in the day with the full on uniforms,
the high socks, the pocket knifes, and strict commitment to building a bigger fire than the troup next door. We had a number of dads who were leaders (my father being our Scout Master). One of our leaders was the king of the dad joke and his favorite was a simple question and answer that always elicited an eye roll or a confused look.

Dad: Hey scout, do you know why I can’t wait for tomorrow?

Scout: Why, sir?

Dad: Because I get better looking every day. Bwwaahhahahahh. 

He told this joke so often that it kind of became his personal slogan. It because what he was known for. In some small ways, it even formed how he lived, he was a joyful and eternally optimistic person. Even though he joked about looking forward to tomorrow, he really did look forward to each new day.

Do you have a slogan? Do you have a statement or phrase that helps both explain who you are and, as the same time, form your decision making? We might think of a slogan as shallow marketing, but what if we really lived by them?

If Christianity had a slogan, John 3:16, which is our gospel this Sunday, might just be it. At the core of our faith is Jesus Christ. The central story of our faith is that God loves us so much that sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so that death is conquered and we can live forever with God.

This basic story of our faith has a greek name – Kerygma. Pope Francis says this about the Kerygma:

We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation…It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart. – Joy of the Gospel 165

What would change if this was your slogan? What if the central message of Christianity what you lived your life by? What if every decision, actions, even thought was made in light of Jesus on the cross?

Write a slogan for yourself! Write a simple, short slogan that explains who you are and helps you form how you live your life. Try it out for a week and revisit it. Edit as needed.


March 4th, Sunday Readings.

Turn the other cheek. Pray for you enemies. Forgive 70 times 7 times. Based on so many img_4553of Jesus’ teachings it would be easy to believe that Jesus’ main message was, “Be excellent to each other.”

Sunday’s gospel where Jesus makes a rope out of cords, flips tables, and clears the temple seems, well, out of place with nice guy Jesus. Doesn’t this “Bruce Banner” Jesus hurt his over Hulk1all nice guy image? Yes. Thank God.

Jesus is unpredictable because he didn’t come to teach us how to be nice. Jesus’ mission isn’t to civilize us or to fix our bad behavior. Jesus didn’t come to make us nice, he came to make us live. His actions in the temple aren’t nice, but they are good. Jesus clears the way for the poor and gentile to get closer to the Temple, to get closer to God.

Jesus isn’t just a nice guy, but he also isn’t an angry brute either. If I had done Jesus actions in the temple, I would have done them out of anger or maybe even revenge. I’ve always thought that Jesus was filled with righteous anger, but where does it say Jesus was angry? No, Jesus acts not out of anger, but out of love – love for those who feel like they can’t get close to God.

This story teaches us that Jesus isn’t nice or angry, but he is willing to do anything to clear a path between us and God. Jesus isn’t satisfied with us at a distance.

Name one thing that keeps you at a distance from God. Name it and figure out how you are going to let Jesus remove it this week.

A Terrifying God.

February 25th Sunday Readings.

How do you picture God? Most of us have some image of God that we keep in our heads. ghost_of_christmas_presentMany people have either Gandalf or the ghost of Christmas present from The Muppet Christmas Carol as their base image for God.  Old.  Beard.  God.

Some people focus on Jesus, which, for many, is basically just a younger version of the old God image.  Young.   Beard.   Jesus.

Still others focus on the Holy Spirit and have a cloud or fire or maybe the wind, which is like blue lines that represent a more mystical version of God.   Mystical.    No Beard.    God.

In our Gospel this Sunday, Peter, James, and John get to see God. They witness Jesus transfigured before them. In other words, they see Jesus as he really is – God made man. What does God look like? Dazzling white. (no mention of beard).

But there is one other thing they say about the moment. When they see God they can barely speak because they are terrified. Terrified is a pretty strong response. This piece of scripture doesn’t say they were upset or amazed or found God interesting. No, their response to seeing God in his glory was to be terrified. No one is terrified of jovial old-man-beard God or blue-line-wind-spirit God.

No matter what we hold in our mind’s eye as our image of God, I bet he is a nice God. Because God is love and generous and good, we tend to also make him tame. Unfortunately this also makes God simple and maybe even strips him of some of his power.

As we read this Sunday, that image of a nice, tame, weak God is wrong. No, God is terrifying. God is scary like a good rollercoaster or like falling in love. God is the kind of terrifying that is terrific, not horrifying. To meet God face to face is thrilling.

If this is God, then the question for us is – Have you ever been terrified, thrilled, or overwhelmed in God’s presence? If meeting God is the kind of experience that leaves us speechless and trembling, have we ever experienced God in this way?

This Lent and Easter is an opportunity to experience this God, the God that thrills us and terrifies us. All we must do is follow the example of the disciples and say yes to walking up the mountain with Jesus. Our faith lives will change for good when we meet God face to face.


Make a plan to visit an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. If you’ve never done that before, there is no wrong way. Just go and focus on Jesus. Tell him you want to see his face.

More info on the Adoration Chapel at HNOJ.

Give up.

February 18th Sunday Readings.

What do you think of when you hear, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”?

For me, I get derek-story-306918worried and scared. I think, “I’m caught. He knows.” Sometimes, I even start to think of the things I’ve done wrong and worry about what Jesus, and maybe others will think once they know I am a fraud and a sinner.

It’s as if I am in a fortress and an invading general is calling for my surrender. It is as if he is calling for me give up, and open my doors so that his troops can come and take me away.
In the gospel and in our lives, the exact opposite is happening.

Instead of being the leader of the invading army, Jesus is the leader of the liberating army. In stead of screaming at the walls of my citadel for me to open my doors and receive my just punishment, Jesus proclaims with joy, “GOOD NEWS! It’s finally safe. You can come out, all will be forgiven.”

We still have to surrender. We still have to admit to my sins. We still have to give up and give in. But instead of surrendering to our enemy, we are surrendering to our savior. As long as the doors are shut to Jesus, the pestilence of sin persists. It’s not only safe to open the doors to Jesus, it is the only way we will survive.

Repent, and believe that when you do, God loves you unconditionally, and Jesus has saved you.

Repent! Step 1: make a list of the things you need to turn away from. Step 2: Confess it. (The best way, seriously, is in the Sacrament of Confession). Step 3: Believe the good news that God loves you unconditionally and you are forgiven.

The Impossible, Please.

February 11th Sunday Readings.

One of my children’s favorite books when they were little was “Papa, Please Get the 27454Moon for Me.” It is a beautifully written and illustrated book by Eric Carle. The basic premise is a child asks their father for the moon and he gets it. My children loved this book because they realized that the request was unreasonable and impossible. Yet, they also delighted in the idea that the impossible, just might happen. I liked the book because the dad is a hero.
What is interesting about he book to me is that it speaks to some truth of childhood. Sometimes small children will ask, without irony, for something that is seemingly impossible. When they ask they don’t hesitate. Whether it is a pony, a 2nd trip to Disney the day you get home from the last trip, or a new sibling, little children don’t shy away from asking for something big.
In the gospel, the man with leprosy asks Jesus for something impossible. Yes, he asks Jesus to heal his untreatable disease. But more than that, he asks Jesus to restore his place in society. He asks to be welcomed back into a community from which he was excluded because of his disease.
Jesus’ first miracle isn’t curing the man. Before Jesus removes his leprosy, he reaches out and touches the man. In reality, I bet there was a gasp from the crowd. People may have been shocked that Jesus poke to the man, but that Jesus would touch him was, well, impossible.
The man with leprosy asked for something that no one could do. He asked for the impossible. And Jesus fulfilled that request.
When we pray, what do we ask God for? Often we temper our requests before we even ask. We often ask God for the reasonable and possible. I think we temper our request because we are scared of being let down by God. We are fearful that if we ask big, God won’t pull through and our faith will be shaken. So how do we ask God for a God-sized miracle without risk? We can’t. Asking for the impossible takes a risk on our part.
What we can do is put all of it God’s hands. We can, like the leprous man, ask first that God’s will be done. Just as he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” we can say, if it is your will, grant this request Lord. Whatever we ask for, whether it is the moon or something just as impossible, we must do so with God’s will in mind.
What is the impossible that you would like to ask God for? A miraculous healing? Healing a broken relationship? Forgiving the unforgiveable? Whatever it is, ask. Ask for that God sized thing. Say something like, “God, I know if you will it, you can……..and in all thing Your will be done!”

Oprah and Purpose

February 4th Sunday Readings.

I don’t hate Oprah. I don’t know her personally and I’m not a disciple of her lifestyle 1*LrhFwqqUEA4Dk4wAerERngempire. The most I’ve encountered Oprah in the last year is when she essentially reported on California mudslides from her backyard and then she told the world she probably wasn’t going to run for president. Maybe I’m not the best kind of person to comment on her but here you go.

Oprah is a tremendous guru. Her ability to lead others, curate a world view, and pass along a particular lifestyle is nearly unmatched. I don’t follow her or know what she says, but even I have had a passing interest in her “favorite things” and her book list because they usually contain something that would make the kind of life I lead more interesting, easy, or fun. Oprah’s purpose is help others lead a comfortable life.

In the gospel this Sunday, we hear Jesus say, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Jesus states that his purpose is to preach. What Jesus is preaching is the good news that God loves us so much he would do anything to bring us back into intimate relationship. Jesus’ ultimate act of preaching was his death on the cross and his resurrection. In his death and resurrection, Jesus doesn’t just tells us that God loves us, Jesus preaches that to die for other is love. Through the resurrection, Jesus teaches that the only way to live is to die. Jesus’ purpose is to preach that if we die to self and follow him, we will be saved from death itself.

Oprah and other gurus teach their followers how to live. Jesus teaches us how to die. Jesus teaches us how to die to self and that only in dying to self can we truly live and truly love. Jesus teaches us how to love and how to receive the perfect love of God. This is an entirely different mission than any other guru.

What is your purpose? Who do you receive your mission from? Everyday we wake up and make the decision between whether we want to live for self or die to self. Everyday we wake up and reset our purpose, our mission. Jesus’ mission wasn’t to help us live a comfortable life, but to help us survive death. That same mission, to preach the good news, Jesus left for the Church – to you and me. Will you make Jesus’ mission your mission? What is your purpose?

Are you living on purpose? Take 5 minutes and quick write a short statement of your purpose in life. Don’t over think it. Then examines your life up and against that purpose statement. What needs to change?