Tuxedos and Rejection

October 15th Sunday Readings.

MW40_341R_10_CALVIN_KLEIN_FORMAL_MAINHave you ever been radically improperly dressed for an event? On my wedding day, my groomsmen and I arrived early to prepare for pictures before the wedding ceremony. One of my groomsman Joe, already had his tuxedo pants and dress shirt on when he pulled his rented jacket from the hanging bag. Instead of a jet black jacket matching the rest of ours, Joe held a marbled grey jacket with strange wavy black pinstripes. Hideous.

Miraculously the problem was solved when new jacket (which still didn’t 100% match, but at least was black) was driven to the church by the tuxedo rental company.

I don’t know what we would have done if there had not been a black jacket for Joe. We contemplated having Joe just go without a jacket. We talked about all the groomsmen not wearing jackets (no bad ideas in brainstorming). What we never talked about was Joe not being in the wedding because he didn’t have the right jacket.

Yet in the gospel this weekend Jesus tells a parable of King who after much effort in getting attendees to his son’s wedding banquet, kicks a man out for wearing the wrong clothes. It seems like a strange story for Jesus to tell. I don’t know about you, but it makes me a little uncomfortable.

I read this week that the wedding garment that Jesus describes in the parable was a metaphor for a righteous life. That the reason the wedding guest was excused from the wedding was not because he was improperly dressed, but because, after saying yes to the wedding feast, he didn’t change his life to conform to what was needed to participate.

Another way to interpret this parable is the idea that a King or wealthy individual throwing a huge wedding party would provide wedding garments for their guests. If someone showed up without the provided garment, it was a rejection of the hospitality of the King. Instead of the King rejecting the wedding guest for his clothes, it was actually the guest who was rejecting the hospitality of the King!
In other words, all are welcome to follow Jesus. All are invited to make the radical decision to make Jesus the Lord of one’s life. But just saying those words isn’t enough. The decision to follow Jesus has never been a one time thing. We must not only say yes to Jesus with our words; we must say yes to Jesus with our lives.

To that end, following Jesus is something, I hope, by God’s grace, we can get better at. During our lives we can learn to conform each decision, each action to the life and will of Jesus.

This, for me, is such good news. Yes it is challenging to think that I have to keep working on being a better follower of Jesus. But the good news is that I get to keep working on it. Tomorrow I can better than today when it comes to following Jesus.

I know Jesus has called me to follow him. I just hope that when my time comes, I am humble enough to accept the wedding garment he offers me.

Live it: Dress in some different way this week and do it as way to demonstrate your willingness to grow in your faith and grow closer to Jesus. If someone asked you why you are dressed differently, answer honestly.

Fear or Love.

June 27th Sunday Readings.

What motivates you? How often are you able to stop and ask “Why?” If you are anything like me, you don’t get the chance often enough to stop and truly evaluation your motivations. The busyness of life makes it difficult to stop and think about why we are doing what we are doing. Yet, if we want to grow as people, examining our motivations is essential.

At our best, we act out of love. Sometimes that love wells up from within us for someone else. Sometimes that love looks a lot like duty or obedience. When we sacrifice for another person, so that they have what they need, we are acting out of love. But we don’t always act out of love.

janet-leigh-psycho-fear

Sometimes, we act out of fear. If I’m honest, this motivates me more than I’d like to
admit. I’m not talking about fear of heights or spiders or clowns. More often the catchphrase of fear is, “What will they think?” If you’ve had that thought go through your head sometime this week (or this morning), you may have had a moment motivated by fear.

Yet in our gospel this Sunday Jesus says, “Fear no one.”

Why? Jesus is teaching us that we can’t be the best version of ourselves when we fear what others will think about us. How radical is this call to fear no one? Jesus tells us not to fear even those who can do us harm or kill us.

What is the benefit of fearing no one? Freedom.

When we choose to not fear others, we are choosing to be free to live a life of purpose. Only when we are free from fear of others, we are free to choose to live motivated by love.

When we are free from fear, we are free to love and that includes loving and being loved by God. Fear no one, love well.

LIVE IT: Choose a day this week to have a “Why? Day”. During the day at various times, ask yourself, “Why did I do what I just did?” Why did I wear what I wore today? Why did I eat that for lunch? Why am I working hard (or hardly working)? Ask God for the grace to choose love.

Why I’m Catholic.

June 18th Sunday Readings.

column735Every now and again, I get asked the question, “Why are you Catholic?” At the core of my answer is Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I am Catholic because I want to have an intimate, life saving, lived relationship with the God of the universe through his Son Jesus and with the Holy Spirit and there is no better way to have that than the Eucharist. How do I know that? Two reasons: 1) I’ve experienced profound intimacy with God through the Eucharist. 2) Jesus says so.

In our gospel this week, Jesus is abundantly clear. Over and over again Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” or “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Jesus isn’t speaking symbolically. He speaks this same truth multiple times and when he is done, most of his followers abandon him. Only the disciples remain when Peter says, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus meant what he said.

If the goal of what I do as a Christian is to deepen in my relationship with Jesus, then I should do what he says is the ultimate way to grow my relationship with him – the Eucharist. Jesus Christ gave himself completely on the cross for us. And it is in the Eucharist that we are able to receive him. Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said this, “We all know, when we look at the cross, how Jesus loved us.  When we look at the Eucharist we know how much He loves us now.”

I’m Catholic because I want to know, experience, and receive God’s unconditional love. eucharist-1591663_1280The Eucharist is how that happens most personally and intimately. Whether you are a regular Mass attender, haven’t been in a long time, or have never been, know this – every Mass is a miracle. Every Mass, the barrier between heaven and earth is removed, and the God of the universe comes into our midst. Jesus isn’t only there in spirit, but physically present in his body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. How amazing.

LIVE IT:
Prep for Mass this weekend by reading John 6:22-69. This piece of scripture is a talk by Jesus called “The Bread of Life Discourse.” It’s awesome.

 

P.S. – Truly, I believe there is so much more to my answer as to why I am Catholic. However, given the purpose and length expectations here, I felt like I could only share this piece. Want to know more, ask me.

I trust you (kinda).

June 11th Sunday Readings.

originalI’m scared of heights. I don’t mean I don’t like them or they make me uncomfortable. All that is true, but my fear of heights is so much more than that. When I find myself in an potentially unsafe heights situation, I loose the ability to think rationally and clearly.

One time on a high ropes course, I got about halfway up the rope ladder when I totally and complete froze up. I couldn’t move up or down. I wanted to do the ropes course, but my body wouldn’t move. I was tied into two safety lines and had a rope controlled by a climb instructor attached to my belt.

Rationally, I could say to myself, “Self. You are totally safe. You have a rope tied to you. The rope holds 500 lbs. You are safe.” I believed that the rope was there, but I couldn’t trust it. I knew it existed, but I wouldn’t trust it with my life.

Our gospel this Sunday is a familiar passage, John 3:16-18. We hear it so often that we can take what it means for granted. One of the keys to unlocking this verse is to understand what Jesus meant when he said the word “believes.” Jesus doesn’t mean the kind of belief that recognizes that God exists. The devil believes that God exists.

The kind of belief that John writes about here is putting our trust in God. In other words, everyone who puts their life into God’s hands will be saved. It is through a full submission and surrender that we are saved through Jesus Christ.

When we understand “belief” to be “acknowledgment of existence” we can be stuck in our faith or our lives just like I was stuck on that rope ladder. It is only when we believe in God so as to trust him with our lives that we can move forward fearlessly.

LIVE IT:
Go to a trusted person in our life – spouse, parent, child, friend, priest, etc. – and start a conversation by asking them this question, “What do you think it means to trust in God?”

Take a Deep Breath.

June 4th Sunday Readings.

If you are a parent, you know that the first time you heard your baby cry was a crying-newborn-baby-rexmoment of joy, relief, and gratitude. After nine months of anticipation and a bit of stress and labor at the end, the thing you are waiting to hear is that your newborn baby has taken his or her first breath. If you’ve ever had the wind knocked out of you or been caught too long underwater, you know what is like to be without air in your lungs even for a moment.

We are so used to breathing and having oxygen delivered to our bodies, that we rarely think about what it would be like to go without. Yet, we jump for joy when we hear our newborn is “breathing fine.”

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus appears to his disciples and after they rejoice in being reunited with their Lord, it says in John’s gospel that Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” At first glance this is kind of a strange moment. What did it look like? Did they think it was weird? Maybe after seeing their friend raised from the dead everything else was less strange. Why did Jesus do this?

The moment reminded me of Genesis 2:7 which says, “then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” It is literally God’s breath that gives humans life. What is Jesus doing? Jesus breaths his life into the lungs of the disciples. In this moment Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

3475873851_2ffb9ba865_bJesus breaths his Holy Spirit into the disciples and invites them to participate in the continuation of his ministry. This piece of scripture is a snapshot of the first breath of the Church. Just as a newborn takes it’s first breath in, the Church takes it’s first breath from Jesus himself. Jesus gives life to the Church with air from his lungs.

With lungs filled with the breath of God, the disciples go out into the world to tell of the good news that God loves us so much he sent his Son to conquer death forever. The chest of the Church still rises and falls as the Holy Spirit gives us breath. Want to serve God and change the world? Take a deep breath (of the Holy Spirit).

LIVE IT:
Pray this prayer sometime this week (or every day this week, you do you). During Mass on Pentecost would be a pretty sweet spot to pray this during as well.

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.

Two Stones

May 14th Sunday Readings.

Do you know the difference between a Keystone and a Cornerstone? Apparently I thumbnail.aspdidn’t. A keystone is the wedge-shaped stone at the center and top of an arch. All the weight and pressure of the other stones press up and against this stone. This is why an arch is such a strong architectural design. (You’d think a guy from St. Louis, b3a4a0d8b7547ff6a28ab4c763880e4fMO would naturally understand this.)

I thought this is kind of what a cornerstone does, somehow from the ground, but that is not the job the cornerstone at all. According to the magical interwebs, a cornerstone is the first stone set in a stone building. All other stones are placed in reference to this first stone. The cornerstone establishes the position of the entire building.

cornerstone minnesota ii

Cornerstone for the Cathedral of Saint Paul, St. Paul, MNreference to this first stone. The cornerstone establishes the position of the entire building.

In our second reading, we hear Jesus referred to as the cornerstone. He’s previously rejected, but God is setting Jesus as the reference guide for all others. In this way, Jesus isn’t just our solid rock foundation. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection sets the guideline for each and every one of us.

As Christians we seek to conform our life to Jesus’ life. We seek to live like Jesus lived. How did Jesus live? By following the Father’s will. The stone of our life lines up best with Jesus’ stone when we follow God’s will for our lives.

Through our baptism we are baptized into a death like Jesus’. Every time we lay down our own desires in order to serve the good of another, we embrace a death like Jesus’. This is what love is, laying down our lives for the good of another. When we love well, we emulate Jesus’ death on the cross and we conform our life to the cornerstone.

Jesus was the first born of the dead. He goes before us, not only in death but in life in the resurrection. St. Paul says it like this, “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” (Romans 6:7) Lining up with the cornerstone in our life, death, and resurrection is the good news of our faith.

LIVE IT:

Watch this video of the song Cornerstone by Hillsong United. 

The Nuclear Option

April 23rd Sunday Readings.

My news feed is full of the phrase “The Nuclear Option.” We heard about the nuclear Nuclear-explosionoption when the Senate voted to end the use of the filibuster in approving Supreme Court nominations. That use was metaphoric. Now warships are headed to the waters around the Korean peninsula and Kim Jong-Un is threatening war with a more literal version of the nuclear option. Not good.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly have warm and fuzzy feelings toward this phrase. I grew up in the last moments of the cold war and the idea of the nuclear obliteration of humanity seems like a bad deal to me (insightful, I know)

In the gospel this weekend, we will hear about Jesus Christ coming back from the dead and appearing to his followers. I think we are so used to that idea or hearing this scripture that we usually fail to really think about what this means.

Jesus’ death and resurrection is the nuclear option.

God was willing to becoming a human being and then die, just so that he could save you and I from our deaths. What was God willing to give up to get us? Everything. Literally his own life. God stepped over the separation we created through sin to bring us back into relationship with himself.

The Gospel this weekend is a witness to the fact that this really, truly, and actually happened. Jesus wasn’t a ghost. Jesus didn’t fake his death. Jesus died and three days later ate with his disciples. When they doubted, Jesus invited them to touch his wounds.

God was willing to go nuclear to save you. There is nothing God wouldn’t do to love you. God’s mercy, which we celebration this Sunday on Divine Mercy Sunday, is extreme.

The question is how do we respond. Do you believe? Will you accept God’s radical invitation to know him?

LIVE IT:
Do something extreme this Easter to meet God. Take a lunch break to come to Church and sit in silence in the main church. Come to daily Mass. Go meet the poor and pray with them, feed them. Find and read you Bible. Go do something “out of character” for you, something that would be your nuclear option to respond to God’s love.