Breath. Breath. Breath.

I rolled over the other night to find myself face to face with my beautiful, beloved bride. She was sound asleep and was, how shall I say it, melodiously breathing deeply. It was then that a warm gust of moist breath hit me in the face. It struck me that it felt like it had been a long time since someone breathed in my face. In this time of social distancing and mask wearing, I haven’t felt the warmth of someone else’s breath for a while, thank God. 

Truth be told, it’s not like I was getting explicitly breathed on a lot in the past either. It is such an intimate thing to happen, we just don’t normally feel other adults breaths on our face. Sure when you have kids it will happen that one of them will climb into your arms, say something cute, sigh, and then breath out deeply all over you. But how often would you purposefully share breath with another adult and know it, feel it? Rarely right? 

So it strikes me as odd that in this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus, in the midst of his post resurrection appearance, breathed on his disciples. Can you imagine being the disciples? Your best friend, leader, and messiah actually rises from the dead, he shows up, says a couple things, and then breaths on you. Why?

Jesus’ breathing onto/into his disciples reminds us of the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:7 God made man out of the dust of the ground and “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Just as God gave life to man by making this carbon bag filled with mostly water into a living, breathing, conscious thing, Jesus breaths the breath of life into the disciples. His breath gives them new life, a life in the Spirit and as the Church. 

When people talk about hearing a good talk or reading a particularly good religious book or quote, what do they call it? Inspiring. If someone shouts “Eureka! I’ve figured it out.” They have been inspired. Jesus literally expires his breath and by doing so  inspires the disciples, and indeed the whole Church, to complete his mission. Jesus has preached and commanded and now Jesus is giving inspiration to his followers one last time.

The Hebrew word for God’s breath that was used in Genesis 2:7 is ruach. This word can be used for breath and often is. The other meaning of ruach is spirit. By breathing on his followers, Jesus is literally giving them the Holy Spirit. He is breathing his very life and indeed his Spirit into the disciples and into the whole Church. The very next thing Jesus says is, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” Boom. 

This Sunday we should probably refrain from receiving anyone else’s breath. But we can and should know the intimacy Jesus wants to have with us. How close? He wants to breath on us. We can know with confidence that Jesus Christ has and will breath his life, his inspiration, and his Holy Spirit into the Church – into us! Come Holy Spirit!

LIVE IT: On Sunday, take 12 big, deep, from your tummy, breaths. With each one pray, “Come Holy Spirit!”, either when you breath in or out. 

The Unexpected Missionary

GoodWord.May20204

I recently read some non-fiction books about the American Revolution and the early 1800s. What I was most surprised by was the difficulty, but regularity of ocean travel. Last year my wife and I traveled to Boston and toured the USS Constitution, a retired tall ship that I actually read about this past week. While the ship was so large, the living quarters were very small. I couldn’t imagine signing on to traverse the Atlantic or even further.

Yet, for many centuries this is what it meant to be a foreign missionary for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Why would anyone get on a boat (maybe not as sturdy and glorious as the USS Constitution) and travel across the globe to tell people about Jesus?

Easy–Jesus told us to.

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus gives us, the Church, the Great Commission. Jesus tells us first and emphatically to “Go.” It is the mission of the Church to go out into the world and tell people the good news of Jesus Christ. We are called to leave the confines of the safe harbor and strike out into open water. When we get there we are to make disciples of all nations, teach them to obey Jesus, and remember Jesus promises to be with us always.

The Mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

I am writing this from the comfort of my finished basement. I have a space heater taking the chill out of the air and enough tea and afternoon snacks to keep me going. I am here because of our stay at home order, and the best way to keep each other safe is to stay home or stay safe. How can I be a missionary for Jesus Christ if my ship can’t leave the harbor?

When it comes to missionary activity we have two Patron Saints that the Church looks toward for intercession and inspiration. First, St. Francis Xavier sailed from Europe in 1540, and after sailing around Africa, founded missions in India, Ceylon, the Molucca Islands, the Banda Islands, the Malay Peninsula, Japan, and then died at age 46 off the coast of China where he was headed for missionary work. A brave and holy man, who has the resume for the job of Patron of Missions.

The Patroness of Mission is Saint Therese of Lisieux. St. Therese lived in a Carmelite Cloister and never left France on Mission. She died at age 24, never having set sail for the far reaches of the world. Yet, she is the unexpected Patroness of Mission and Missionaries. How did she accomplish the Mission of the Church while never leaving her home? St. Therese did three things that I think we can emulate and by doing so, accomplish the mission before us:

  1. Prayer. I am not an expert in St. Therese’s prayer life, but one thing I do know is her absolute dependence on God. When we pray during this time, we must pray as a people who are absolutely in need of God. We can do that.
  2. Love. St. Therese was humble and lived humbly in the cloister, but she did so with great love. While she didn’t travel the world on mission to speak the good news of Jesus Christ, she loved well those around her. She did the things of her day, dishes, prayers, chores, laundry, with great heart. She did these simple sacrifices with love and offered her work up to Jesus Christ. We can do that.
  3. Write/Record. St. Therese wrote “The Story of a Soul”, an autobiography which has converted (along with God’s grace) many hearts. She recorded her desire for God and for others to know God. We can write to our family and our friends. We can record what God is doing for and in us right now with a pen or keyboard or camera. We can do that.

Live It: If we want to emulate the great Patroness of Mission, St. Therese of Lisieux, then we must start with our prayer. St. Therese wrote many prayers, and this one for the start of the day is particularly beautiful in its simplicity (I think).

O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.
O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity. Amen.

Readings for Sunday May 24th, 2020.

There are two types of people…

GoodWord.May20203

Have you ever heard someone start the phrase “There are two types of people in this world…”? The second half is usually something silly like, “Those who like Chicago style pizza and this who like New York Style pizza.” That, of course, is ridiculous. All pizza is amazing and delicious. Or maybe they say, “Those who like Star Wars and those who like Star Trek.” Also silly because most people actually either like both or neither (right?).

As much as I think that most of the time when we use this phrase we are setting up a false dichotomy, there is one topic that I think is true:

There are two kinds of people in this world, people who think God is active and working in our lives and people who don’t.

Of course there are many ways to categorize and break down each of these two groups, but in the end either you think God is working or you don’t.

It is tempting to think that maybe God exists and He started this whole existence thing and now we are on our own. This way of thinking is helpful when we consider why bad things happen if we supposedly have this good God. It even helps comfort people when they question why their prayers are not being answered. Some call this the Watchmaker God. As if God built the world and now it just runs on its own.

Of course there are problems with this way of thinking. The biggest issue is that if you believe this, then it is impossible to be Christian. In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus gives us his word that he will not abandon us. He tells us he won’t make us orphans. Jesus promises us another advocate for us, namely, the Holy Spirit.

Further, Jesus himself is proof that God didn’t just make the world and abandon us. No, God sent his Son into the world and changes the course of history and salvation for us all. God’s interjection was the most profound and real example of God actively working in our world. And Jesus promises to never abandon us.

Do you believe God is actively working in our lives? Do you believe Jesus is the greatest example of God’s saving work? Do you believe Jesus when he says he will never abandon you?

If the answer is yes to all three, then be confident that you believe the truth, that you not only have a God that breathed the stars and invented gravity, you have a God who cares deeply for you personally and will never abandon you.

Live It: Jesus says he won’t abandon us and that he will send an Advocate – the Holy Spirit. So pray this prayer at least 1 time this week:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

(And then eat some pizza to celebrate.)

Sunday Readings for May 17th, 2020.

Enough Ice Cream

GoodWord.2May2020.jpg

Have you ever been to Nelson’s ice cream? I went to the St. Paul location a couple years ago. A friend of mine, Kory, and I went together. It was my first time, but not his. Kory and I both enjoy our ice cream and have been known to put away our fair share. So I was shocked when on our way in he asked, “Do you want to share a child’s size?”
What? First of all, I don’t want to share at all and much less the “child’s size.” I couldn’t believe he asked. That was until we walked inside and saw what Nelson’s calls the child’s size. If you don’t know, a child size at Nelson’s is like 10 heaping scoops of delicious, rich ice cream. I couldn’t believe it. I half expected Kory to look at me and ask, “Is that enough ice cream?” I finished mine and enjoyed every bite, but didn’t feel good about the decision later.
The word “enough” is a funny description. Enough seems to be predicated on our personal preference. What my wife and I think is enough ice cream is very very different. When I tell my 2 year old that he has banged his fork on the table enough times, he rarely agrees.
In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus is preaching to his disciples and assuring them that he will be going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. All they must do is follow his way. Thomas questions whether they know the way and Jesus emphatically tells them that Jesus himself is the way. Then Philip puts out a condition, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus admonishes him. Jesus says you already know the Father because you know him. Jesus and Father are one and the same.
The issue here, beyond Philip and the other disciples seemingly lack of understanding, is  that they are putting one more condition on Jesus. It’s akin to saying if you just do one more thing, then we will believe. Even in the context of the story, it seems rude. Jesus has preached with authority like no other man. Jesus has multiplied the loaves. Jesus has healed the lame and leper. Jesus has forgiven sins. By all accounts, Jesus has done enough. Yet, the disciples still ask.
One question this reading asks of us is, “has Jesus done enough for you and I to believe?” Are His miracles, preaching teaching, and promises enough for us to lay our lives down before Him forever? How about His resurrection? What would be enough?
Yet maybe this isn’t the right question. We aren’t asking about a business transaction – Jesus proves himself and we assent to His divinity. We are talking about love relationship. Jesus is inviting us into a deeply loving relationship that could last the rest of our existence. When it comes to love, the word “enough” doesn’t enter into the equation. We love by choice and by action. After all, Jesus loves us when we aren’t enough.
LIVE IT: Journal for 5 minutes even if it is just bullet points. Answer the following questions, 1) Has Jesus done enough to earn me? 2) Do I love Jesus?

Sunday Readings for May 10th 2020.