Don’t look the other way.

Sept. 25th Sunday Readings

In my first year of marriage, I had this conversation with my wife maybe 1,783,537 times:

Me: Honey, my love – look, I cleaned up after myself (spoken proudly).
Wife: Darling, really. Really?!
Me: What do you mean? I wiped this down and washed this and put these things away.
Wife: Yes, and yet, dust bunnies remain there and streaks over here and look under here, untouched by your cleaning.
Me: I, literally, didn’t see any of that.
(Okay, maybe I embellished the sweet talk a bit, but you get the idea.)

I don’t think it was that I was bad at cleaning (maybe), it was just that I didn’t notice any of those unfinished tasks. I didn’t see the dirt and dust. It wasn’t a matter of effort or desire, but of vision. I didn’t clean what I couldn’t see.

Honestly, I think after college and guy apartment living, I had trained myself to ignore the dirt in the corners. I learned, through repetition, that as long as you got the big stuff, everything was good to go. I practiced seeing the big stuff and ignoring the little stuff.

I think the same thing happens in the gospel this weekend. Jesus tells a story of a rich man (who traditionally is named Dives) and the poor beggar Lazarus who sat just outside the rich man’s door. I think it wasn’t that Dives was an evil man, but he practiced ignoring Lazarus for years. Day after day, Dives would leave his home and ignore Lazarus to the point that he didn’t even see him any more.

What’s the result of years of ignoring Lazarus? Dives experiences the eternal, fiery, torments of hell. In a plot twist, Dives sees Lazarus and Abraham far off. Dives asks if Lazarus will do for him exactly what he didn’t do for Lazarus – show him mercy.

I can’t speak for you, but I think I have trained myself to ignore the poor.

Like Dives, I’ve learned to look away from every Lazarus I encounter. Most of the time when we stop at the top of an off ramp, I purposefully ignore the people asking for a handout. When we encounter someone on the street downtown, I rarely even acknowledge they are a human being in need of help. I’m happy to write a check or attend a fundraiser, but I don’t know the truly destitute who are my neighbors.

How about you?

I think for me this story is a challenge to see with new eyes. Jesus is asking us to unlearn all that we have taught ourselves. Particularly, he is inviting us to really see the poor and vulnerable. Jesus is challenging us to stop ignoring those around us who are in real need.

How important is it that we see the poor and vulnerable? Jesus suggests our eternal future depends on it.

LIVE IT:

Look for and see the humanity of the poor and vulnerable. That may mean looking into the eyes and greeting someone asking you for money at an offramp or downtown. It may mean reading the stories of the poor. It may mean simplifying your life so others can simply live.

At HNOJ here is where you can learn more about the poor and vulnerable.

Good News?

The Good Word for Sunday November 15th ~ for the complete Sunday readings click here. 

“Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” This Sunday at Mass we are all going to say this phrase together following this somewhat horrifying piece of scripture. In case you didn’t read the gospel before reading this reflection, Jesus says things like, “The sun will be darkened,” and “the moon will not give it’s light,” and “stars will be falling from the sky,” and “this generation will not pass away before these things have taken place.”

Yikes. People have long been afraid of the end of the world. R.E.M even had a top forty hit with the song, “It’s the End of the World (and I feel fine)” poking fun at those fearful of the end times.

So why does Jesus say these things? Believe it or not, but these words were probably comforting to the first people whoever read them. The gospel of Mark was written for a community of Christians who were being heavily persecuted by the Roman Empire. Those hearing these words would have understand that what was being said was a promise, a relief, and a call to hope in a future free of persecution.

Can you imagine living in fear that you or your family would be arrested, tortured, or killed just because you are Catholic? What if you had to attend Mass in secret, in the middle of the night? What would life be like if any day your next-door neighbor could turn you in for being a follower of Jesus? Now that is scary.

This is was the reality of life for the people who first read Mark’s gospel. For that reason, the idea that this too shall pass, that Jesus was coming again and soon was comforting. When the early Christians heard that the way the world was going to end, well, that was actually a message of hope.

Christian persecution is happening right now in 2015. Daily there are Christian martyrs, people killed, just for being Christian. Reports of whole towns being burned to the ground and men, women, and children being killed for their Christianity keep making the news.

When we hear the words of the gospel this weekend, instead of reacting in fear of the horrifying image of the last days, let us instead pray for our Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters for whom and end of the current age would be a welcome sight.

Live It:
1) Learn about Christian persecution. Start by reading this short article about Pope Francis and Christian Persecution.
2) Pray for all persecuted Christians today.

Want to learn more? Check out the CNEWA.

Just do it. The Good News for Sept 13th

local-kids-playing-at-the-beach-sunset-3 For the complete Sunday readings click here.

It happened at the Elm Creek swimming pond this past weekend. My wife and I were taking our daughters for a last weekend of summer swim. I was sitting on the edge of the water watching my youngest daughter splash around in the shallow water when suddenly all I could think about was the picture I had seen that day of the lifeless body of the young refugee laying in the sand of a European beach.

The young boy had died during the horrendous trip from Syria towards the safety of Europe. Something happened and he was in the water and his body has washed ashore. I tried to shake the image from my mind and soon had moved on to something else. But for a second, I was overcome thinking about that little boy who died and the family who had lost him in the dangerous trek to safety.

Honestly, I didn’t want to think about the horrors of this overwhelming refugee crisis. I don’t ever want to imagine what war or famine means for real families.

Our second reading this weekend reminds us that thinking about someone in need isn’t enough. Thinking about the refugee crisis or even saying, “Wow, what a shame,” will leave us feeling empty or upset. Why? Because Jesus has called us to more. As baptized Catholics, Jesus has invited to do something more significant than worry or fret or feel. And it is in doing more, in acting on our faith, and actually doing something to help someone that the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is lived and shared. In sacrificing for the sake of someone else, we are blessed.

Pope Francis recently encouraged every Catholic parish and monastery in Europe to welcome in, house, and feed at least one family of refugees. If the European Catholic Church did this, estimates suggest they would help nearly 500,000 people. Wow.

Would we be willing to do this? Would we the people of Holy Name of Jesus welcome in a family of strangers? I hope we would.

Here is what we can do, for sure. We can demonstrate our faith. By that I mean that we live what we believe, that Jesus is calling us to not only believe in the gospel, but to live it out. In this particular case and for those of us in the USA we can pray daily for the refugee crisis and an end to war and famine. We can call on our government to increase the number of refugees we will accept into our country and our communities. And we can donate financially to a group we know will be able to help those in most need.

Just thinking and wishing isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for the people we are thinking about, but it also isn’t enough for us. Just thinking or wishing isn’t generous enough to bring us joy. If we want to turn mourning into dancing, we have to do something. St. Paul would call that demonstrated faith.

Live It:
Help Catholic Relief Services help a refugee family. Catholic Relief Services serves millions every day, including those fleeing the Middle East. CRS is a highly accredited aid organization with boots on the ground in the worst places in the world. Donate directly to refugee relief here.

The Good Word for January 25

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

In the gospel today two things happen. First, Jesus declares that the kingdom of God is at hand. Second Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him. Though it doesn’t seem like it, these two sections of the gospel are very much interrelated.

When Jesus declares the kingdom and invites us to repent and believe, he really is announcing good news! In the kingdom of God the hungry are fed, the broken are fixed, the angry are calmed, the sick are healed, the lonely are included, the thirsty are given water, the tired are given rest, the naked are clothed, and much more! This is great news, but lets make it more tangible. By the time you are done reading this blog, 3 people, likely children, will have died from unclean drinking water (get the facts on clean water.) In the kingdom of God that Jesus is declaring, that won’t happen. This really is good news.

Jesus then invites us to repent, which is another way of saying that we have the opportunity to repent because in the kingdom of God, the sinner can be forgiven. He then ends his statement by saying that we can trust this good news to be true.

The very next story is about Jesus going out to call people to follow him, see the good news first hand, and then continue to spread the good news through their lives. Jesus declares the kingdom and then calls people to live it.

The thing is that you and I are also called. Jesus Christ is calling us to not just be Christian in name, but to be true believers of the kingdom of God, the good news that sins are forgiven and all will be made right. And as disciples, just like Simon and Andrew, James and John, we are called to go out and tell others about the good news.

Live It:
Sometimes it’s hard to really hear the good news because we’ve heard stories about Jesus our whole life. This week take out your Bible (or look it up here) and read John 3:16-17 and pretend you are reading it for the first time. It really is good news.

The Good Word for Nov. 23rd

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

My wife is amazing. The other day we had some of our couple friends over. We all have elementary-aged kids. The adults were all down stairs in our living room talking and the kids were upstairs playing in our playroom. All of a sudden we hear this shrill scream and instantly, all the moms start to get up until my wife says, “Ohh, that’s mine,” and runs upstairs to care for our 5 year-old.

Out of the fifteen kids who could have been screaming, how did she know it was Sophia? Because my wife is Sophia’s mom and Sophia is her child. Liz knows her children and her children know her.

In our first reading, from Ezekiel, God explains that he is a shepherd who really knows his own sheep. He knows them so well, that when they are scattered and separated, he will still go after them and find them. The lost he will find. The injured he will help. The sick he will heal. And those who are a little too full of themselves, he will humble.

The key to this passage is that we belong to God and he will do anything to bring us back into relationship with him. So the question is, if God wants to be close to us, how do we get close to him? Jesus answers this question in gospel.

Jesus says whenever we have helped the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, ill, or imprisoned we have helped him. And whenever we have been near to the least, we have been near to him. So, if you want to be close to Jesus, get close to the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized. It’s that simple.

Live It:
Make a plan to be close to the poor, vulnerable, or marginalized sometime this Advent. Need some help making your plan? Check out our website on ways you can reach out. https://www.hnoj.org/outreach

The Good Word for Nov 9th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

table flipHave you ever been so angry that you wanted to turn over a table? We see this all the time in movies and TV shows. Several people are sitting around a table in a restaurant or an office. One person gets so upset that they stand up and flip over the table – plates and silverware go everywhere, pens and note pads go flying. Pretty dramatic.

In our gospel, Jesus takes it even a step further. He makes a whip out of rope and literally chases the moneychangers out of the temple area. Whenever we see this portrayed in a Jesus movie, it looks like Jesus is pretty upset, just like every other table flipper. But was Jesus really angry?

The disciples use a different word – zeal. Zeal is being greatly enthusiastic about an idea or mission. People who live with zeal are passionate, devoted, eager, intense, and even fanatical.

So what is Jesus so fired up about? Jesus is zealous for his house, for the temple of the Lord. Jesus’ intense response was brought about because people were trying to profit financially off of people’s desire to get close to God.

Roman coins were not allowed into the temple, and so the moneychangers charged exorbitant, criminally high rates to exchange the coins for Jewish currency. Those wishing to sacrifice at the temple Continue reading