We all need this.

The Good Word for Sunday February 28th ~ for the complete readings click here.

If you have kids you’ve probably been asked this question, “Do you really ‘need’ that thing, or do you ‘want’ it?” If you have a 3 year old, the answer is usually absolutely I need this candy bar and lip gloss and ninja PEZ dispenser. Duh.

But what do we really need?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs.” The basic premise is that one needs to have their most basic needs met before the next set of needs matter. For example, what we are going to eat for lunch in 2 hours doesn’t matter much if we can’t breath. And what we are going to wear to work the next day doesn’t matter much if we haven’t eaten in 3 days.

Maslow theory states that our most basic needs are physiological. We need air, then water, then food. Without these we can’t go on to care about things like which fonts to use on our blog. Everyone needs air and water and food, if they want to survive.

In the gospel this weekend Jesus explains that there is something that everyone needs: Mercy.

Jesus comments on two different “news” stories of the day in which people were killed. He asks the audience if the victims deserved death because of their sin. You probably already know that if Jesus had let crowd answer they would have said, “Of course their sin was greater; they died didn’t they?”

Instead Jesus says this, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Jesus is trying to explain that those poor souls who died violently either in the temple or because of the building collapse weren’t any worse sinner than us, not because they weren’t sinners, but because we are! Everyone is a sinner. You. Me. Pope Francis. Mother Teresa. And if we are sinners, then we all need God’s mercy.

I recently heard in a funeral homily the priest say that when there is a funeral of a really good and admirable person it is easy to just spend the whole time talking about how amazing they are. It is easy to forget that they were also a sinner in need of God’s mercy, just like us. In other words, every saint was a sinner in need of God’s mercy.

The good news is that God is ready to give you and I all the mercy we need. God can’t wait to pour his mercy upon us. He won’t hesitate to show us mercy when we don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Live it:
Go to Confession. If you haven’t gone in a while or don’t see the point or don’t feel comfortable telling a priest, I really encourage you to pray about it first. Want to check out a sweet talk about Confession? Check out “The Healing Power of Confession” By Dr. Scott Hahn by visiting formed.org, use our parish code, log in and then check out the talk. How to do all that can be found here.

Above all else.

The Good Word for Sunday February 14th ~ for the complete readings click here.

Bathroom-door-signMy sophomore year of college I was part of a group of students who helped run orientation for incoming freshmen. During the orientation we were asked to share our most important piece of advice. My friend gave this advice, “Go to the bathroom whenever you want. Stand up in the middle of class and leave. If you gotta go, go.” This guy is a college professor now.

At the time I thought it was funny and maybe a little too specific. Only later did I realized at the core of what he was saying is that we are all given free will to make our own decisions and then experience the results of those choices.

Knowing that we all have the ability to make choices for ourselves makes this gospel story of Jesus Christ resisting the temptations of the devil even more powerful. Sometimes we forget that Jesus was 100% human (and 100% God). He knows what it is like to be tempted.

After 40 days without food, Jesus must have been hungry. Knowing his mission was to save the world, ruling over the world must have been tempting. Knowing that he would have to suffer to accomplish his mission, he must have wondered if shouldn’t test God to see if God would save him from suffering.

Yet, Jesus chose to be obedient to God instead. He chose his relationship with God over all else. If we are going to learn to be like Jesus, we must seek to try and live like Christ.

This is what we do in Lent. When we give up something we desire, it isn’t because we want to lose weight or just be more disciplined. We are saying, “I choose to obey God. I chose God over all else.” Why do we do what we do in Lent? For God. When we practice sacrificing something small, we get better at choosing God over all else.

Live It:
Connect prayer to your Lenten sacrifices. Did you give up something this Lent? Every time you desire it, say a quick prayer. Here are some suggested prayers: “Glory to you, God!” “All for you, Jesus” “Jesus, you above all else” or even just pray his name, “Jesus.” By connecting prayer to our practice, we make our actions about our relationship with God instead of just for ourselves.


Try, Try Again.

The Good Word for Sunday February 7th ~ For the complete readings click here.

Have you ever completely failed at something? In 7th grade I tried out for my school’s basketball team. I hadn’t played organized basketball since 3rd grade. I wore a velcro-wristwatch to tryouts. I was relatively short and slow compared to most basketballs players. It didn’t go well. Needless to say I was cut pretty quickly. I tried out again in 8th grade. Same result.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Simon, James, and John. Fishing was their profession and source of income. Fishing was how they fed their families. Working hard all night and then catching nothing must have been a terrible disappointment. For them fishing was literally life or death.

When this stranger, not a local fisherman, tells them to try again, they probably thought he was crazy. Then it happened. They caught so many fish that their nets were ripping – from nothing to great abundance. This advice to persevere and go deeper brought them success.

When they fished without the guidance or presence of Jesus, they failed. When they followed his direction and went into deeper waters, they caught an overabundance. For truly overwhelming results, all they had to do was being willing to listen to Jesus and try again.

The same is true with us and Lent. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some pretty tepid Lenten results. Okay, if I’m honest, I’ve failed at Lent. I don’t mean to say I didn’t keep my Lenten promise, but that my Lenten promise was lame, didn’t really mean anything to me, and didn’t help me grow spiritually. Nothing was different on day 40 of Lent from day 1.

If 2016 is going to be the best Lent we’ve ever had, we need to be like Simon, James, and John. Here’s how we do it:

  1. It’s about Jesus – No matter what we do, we need to make Jesus the most important thing. If giving up chocolate doesn’t really have anything to do with Jesus, then forget it. What thing are we going to do this Lent that helps us focus on Jesus? What can you do that will help you say Jesus’ name every day? What do you need to give up to make room for Jesus? Focus on Jesus.
  2. Try, try again – Had a bad Lent in the past? Never had a good Lent, like ever? Be willing to try again. Say like Simon, “I haven’t caught anything yet, but at your command Jesus, I will try again.” This time we need to fish in deeper waters. Maybe that means making a big Lenten promise this year that deepens our faith. Whatever we do, we need to try again this year.
  3. Look in a mirror – After the big catch, Simon figures out that there is something special about this Jesus. Simon knows he is a sinner and says so. Jesus forgives him and calls Simon to follow him. We do this by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We think about the ways we have failed to do good and avoid evil, we own up to it, God forgives us, and then we can more full say yes to Jesus. Lent is the perfect time to do this. (check the HNOJ Lenten Guide for increased Reconciliation times).

Live It:
Sign up for a daily Lenten email. We recommend the “Best Lent Ever” emails from Dynamic Catholic. Every day you’ll get something to think about or do that will help you focus on Jesus, try again, and look in a mirror. Sign up here.