The Good Word for March 1

For the complete 2nd Sunday of Lent readings click here. 

I graduated from high school with just 123 classmates. I went to an all-boys Catholic college prep school in St. Louis, MO. Needless to say, I knew the other guys in my class really well. Except one guy – Dan the man. I can’t remember Dan’s last name and probably didn’t know it in high school either. Dan had big, thick glasses, wore outdated clothes, and was brilliant in Math and Science. In two years of Junior High and four years of high school, Dan probably said six words total. I’m serious. Gym class, lab groups, class discussion, Dan almost never spoke.

That was until our senior class retreat. On the first night of the four day retreat, Dan gave the opening talk. It was shocking. Dan spoke for over 30 minutes. He explained his non-traditional home life. He shared about who he was. And most astonishing, Dan recalled everything he had witnessed, good and bad, in six years of watching us interact as a group of people. For some of us, it was horrible. It was like having our conscious recall all of our sins against each other. Others felt a sense of relief because we weren’t mentioned, but then realized we also didn’t so anything to help others either.

What none one did was deny Dan’s observations because he spoke the truth, but also, because we knew he didn’t waste words. If he was going to speak, he was going to make it count.

In all the gospels, God only speaks twice. He speaks even less than Dan the man. During the gospel this Sunday we hear one of the few times God actually speaks in the gospels. And when God speaks, he doesn’t say much – just two sentences, eight words. So what does he say?

It’s simple. God says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” The message couldn’t be more straightforward. Jesus is the Son of God and God loves him very much. God speaks the truth and the rarity of his words gives us extra reason to pause and really pay attention.

So what are supposed to do? Listen to Jesus. This kind of listening isn’t just to “hear,” but rather to listen and obey. It’s the kind of listening we ask of our children. God is asking us to listen to Jesus, and listen by obeying his direction. Are you listening to Jesus? Are you read to listen and obey?

Live It:
Take 2 minutes to think about how your Lent is going so far. Have you been committed to renewing your faith this Lent? How is your prayer, alms giving, and fasting going? Here in the 2nd week, it is a great time to recommit to whatever Lenten practices we have begun.

The Good Word for February 22nd

For the complete 1st Sunday of Lent readings, click here.

What do you imagine when you hear someone is “driven?” Did you think about a wunderkind businesswoman or a navy seal? Maybe you imagine a spunky, undersized professional athlete that worked his or her way into the top tier of their sport. Maybe you thought about an inner-city high school teacher who puts in the extra hours to raise kids as well as grades. Just maybe you thought of someone you know personally and smiled out of pride.

Rarely do we think of Jesus as “driven.” Kind, loving, holy, good storyteller, even better beard – these are the things we think of when we think of Jesus. Yet, in our gospel today we hear that Jesus was driven into the desert by the Spirit. One could read this to say he went against his will, but the reality is that “the Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, the very spirit of God, who is one with Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’ Spirit that drives him into the desert. Jesus is driven.

Why does Jesus go into the desert? Why does the Spirit drive him there? One way to understand this moment in Mark’s gospel is that Jesus went into the desert to confront Satan directly. In the time of Jesus, the desert represented the wild, untamed, and even possessed land where evil spirits roamed freely. It was seen as the Devil’s domain. An early Christian could read this to say that Jesus was driven to go confront the devil to boldly challenge him. Jesus confronts evil at the very beginning of his ministry. Jesus doesn’t passively wait to save us; he confronts the Adversary, another name for Satan, and resists every temptation throw his way.

Jesus is driven to save the world.

Nothing we do can keep Jesus from coming after us to save us. No sin is too big, nowhere too remote – Jesus is coming for us.

Live it:
What are you waiting for this Lent? Don’t wait to encounter God or renew your faith. Do something radical this week to drive your faith further. Some ideas may be to stop by the Adoration Chapel at HNOJ for an hour. Visit the poor and vulnerable through one of the many charitable organization. Boldly share your faith with a friend or coworker. Pray with your family. Sign up for a daily Lenten email (check out HNOJ’s Facebook page for some ideas).

The Good Word for February 15th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

A friend of mine just told me that she is expecting. She couldn’t wait to share the good news. She was so excited to expand her family and bring a new life into the world. When she told me, her face lit up and she could barely get the words out she was so over come with joy. Have you ever had such good news you couldn’t wait to share?

In the gospel today, Jesus heals a leper. But this wasn’t just a simple healing of a skin disease. This wasn’t even saving the man’s life from leprosy. We hear in the first reading that lepers were required to live away from society. They were to demonstrate that they were unclean by dressing differently. And when they approached someone, they were to yell out the words, “Unclean! Unclean!” Can you imagine that today? Now imagine being healed. This man wasn’t just healed; his place in society was restored. He could again live with family and friends. He could enter the market place. He could actually practice his Jewish faith again. Jesus didn’t simply save this man’s life. Jesus gave back his life, dignity, and worthiness.

Receiving such a great gift, the man couldn’t be silent, even though Jesus tells him to. The former leper goes and immediately begins to tell other people that Jesus healed him. He was so vocal about it that Jesus couldn’t enter a town openly.

By Jesus’ healing action, he actually traded places with the man in a way. Now Jesus has to live in the deserted places just as the leper used to. Now Jesus gets announced every town he enters just like the leper used to have to do.

Jesus doesn’t want to just improve our lives. He doesn’t want to make us better. He wants to radically change everything. Jesus wants to turn our lives completely upside down and the result will be that our lives will be saved. Jesus wants to change everything because only a radical reorientation of our lives will lead to eternal life. This change is such good news that when we truly experience it, we too won’t be able to contain ourselves. Instead, we will shout the good news from the rooftops, “Jesus saved me! My life is completely different because Jesus healed me!”

Live It:
From now until Ash Wednesday (Feb 18th), pray this simple prayer every night, “Jesus if you wish, you can change my life.”

The Good Word for February 8th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

When my sister was in 7th grade she was playing keeper for her summer soccer team. A hard shot came knuckling towards her and dipped at the last moment. She stopped the ball, but caught it awkwardly, stubbing her thumb. It hurt pretty badly, but she assumed a little ice and rest would take care of the pain. Two weeks later it still hurt, so she went in to have it looked at by a doctor, only to find out she had actually fractured her thumb.

Rarely do we have a physical injury that we don’t know about. But sometimes we don’t realize just how badly we are hurt. Sometimes illness infects the body and we have absolutely no pain or sign. I think sin works like this too. Sometimes when we sin, we don’t realize how bad we are really injured. We think a little time and we will be healed. Other times we aren’t aware how wounded we really are because there doesn’t appear to be any outward sign.

In our gospel this week, we read about Jesus curing the sick, driving out demons, and preaching the good news. Jesus wants to do this for you too. Jesus wants to heal your wounds from sin. He wants to restore you to spiritual health. He came to do just this. All we have to do is ask for his healing power.

The obstacle is that most of the time we don’t feel hurt, injured, or sick. We don’t recognize how sin is hurting us. And if we do recognize our wounds, we think we are the only one and so we hide.

If you want to be spiritually healthy, the first step is to recognize our need for healing. The good news is that Jesus is the perfect doctor. He not only will heal us, but he can help us to identify our spiritual wounds. All we have to do is go to the doctor.

Live It:
Doing an examination of conscious can help us to identify our spiritual wounds. A good selection of examines can be found here. My favorite is the one for married persons. Take 5 minutes this week to read through an examination. If something surfaces, consider receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.