The Cookie Split and the Gospel

September 24th Sunday Readings.

Have you ever had to split a cookie or a piece of cake with a sibling? If you did, when youChocolate_chip_cookiewere a kid, then you may have heard what I heard as a kid, “Honey, you can split the cookie, but then your sister has the first pick of which half she wants.”

The precision to break that cookie perfectly in half so that I didn’t get cheated and my sister didn’t get more was off the charts. If I had access to a jeweler’s scale, I would have broken it out to make sure that the cookie halves were exactly even, down to the nanogram. May it was just me, but I thought even = fair.

Nobody likes to get cheated. We have a natural, God given, desire that justice is done. It’s why we get perturbed at the the guy who cuts up in the traffic back up. It’s why we can never seem to pick the right grocery store checkout line. It’s why we ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Life should be fair.

It’s why the people who work all day in Jesus’ parable get frustrated when the group that only works for a little while gets the same pay. The parable goes against our sense of fairness. So what exactly is Jesus getting at?

Jesus starts the parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” Stop right there. Jesus is comparing the kingdom to a person. the kingdom of heaven is intimate lived relationship with Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is full communion and intimacy with the Trinity. So when someone works for the kingdom, the usual daily wage isn’t gold or power or a perfectly split cookie. No, the usually daily wage is unconditional love, perfect joy, and total fulfillment. Everyone gets paid the same because everyone gets paid more than they could even want or need.

When it comes to the cookie, there is a finite amount of cookie. The more my sister got; the less I got. But when it comes to God’s love there is no limit. I can have limitless unconditional love and you can have limitless unconditional love.

With that in mind the objections of the people who worked all day isn’t justice, but jealously. They are jealous of those who received what they received but for less sacrifice.

Does being jealous make you joyful?

Of course not. God is never out done in his generosity. We will only be joyful if we are willing to accept and celebrate God’s generosity and mercy to others.

Live It:
Celebrate someone else’s victory, even if it is a small one. Send a note, buy a coffee, or say a prayer of thanks giving on their behalf – whatever will honor them.

Don’t Keep Score.

September 17th Sunday Readings.

233 Fenway Park - Scoreboard (June 2, 2007)-L-2During my marriage preparation our mentor couple told us a beautiful piece of advice – don’t keep score. Despite not yet being married, we knew exactly what that meant. If your married or have a deep friendship, than you probably know what that means too. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeking to “earn points” by doing things our spouse wants us to do. It feels natural to take away points when our spouse disappoints or hurts us. Keep score comes so naturally to us in so many areas of our life that we just naturally apply it to our relationships.

The truth is that relationships are not a competitive endeavor. No seriously. I know it’s funny to joke around about it – I certainly do that with my wife. But the reality is when we treat our spouse as our competition, as our adversary, we both loose.

In the gospel Jesus is trying to teach us that our relationships with God and with others are not competitive endeavors. No matter how many times someone else hurts us, they aren’t loosing. No matter how deeply we harm God, we aren’t down for the count. Why? Because God isn’t the divine referee. God is our Father and wants, not to have a point system with us, but instead, an intimate, lived relationship. God desires to be closer to us than we can ever imagine and keeping score just gets in the way.

God forgives you. He does. He wants to, because he wants you. We don’t go to Confession to have the score reset or to reset the clock. He go to have a conversion of heart. To turn away from keeping score and turn to acting, responding to God’s love with love. We do that by worshiping God and serving others.

The wicked servant in the story does the exact opposite. He keeps score and thus is judged by his score. Don’t keep score, love unconditionally, because God loves you first.

Live It: Do something nice for your spouse. Doesn’t matter what it is – get their car washed for them, bring them flowers, empty the dishwasher, let them pick the movie. Whatever it is, pray that you don’t do it for points, but out of love.

You’re Glowing.

August 6th Sunday Readings.

1505CNS-popemarried-couplesWEB2“You’re glowing.” Have you ever heard this phrase used? I’ve heard people say this to grooms and brides on their wedding day. I’ve heard people say this to pregnant women. Something about moments of incredible joy that seem to have us radiating light.

A friend of mine once told me that in Mexico the traditional way to ask a pregnant woman when she is due is, “Cuado vas a dar luz?” or “When will you bring forth the light?” The birth is a moment of brightness, of light.

In the gospel and first reading this weekend, we read about God in his glory shinning brightly. Daniel describes The Ancient one as bright white as snow sitting on a flaming throne. In the familiar story of the transfiguration, Jesus’ face “shone like the sun,” and his clothes become “white as light.” In another moment from scripture, Moses encounters God on Sinai, comes down the mountain, and the skin of his face became radiant.

A couple years ago, an acquaintance of mine heard a talk about the Eucharist and went to Eucharistic Adoration and for the first time in her life, she believed that the Eucharist really is Jesus. She walked out of the church and the first person who saw her, before they even spoke, remarked, “Wow. You’re glowing.”

I think when we encounter God in an intimate and profound way, there is a fundamental The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896change within us. That change can manifest itself in a noticeable way. People can literally see the change in us. We radiate. That light is a manifestation of receiving and giving unconditional love. That is why the newly married couple glow. That is why the mother grown a human, with a soul, within her radiates light. That is why when we encounter this God of love who would do anything to be near us, we radiate his love into the world. Let your light shine.

LIVE IT: Take sometime this week to light a candle and sit in silence. You could do this at the Adoration Chapel or in your home. Let God speak to you in the silence.

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.

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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.

Run like you’re being chased.

April 16th Easter Sunday Readings.

“Run like you’re being chased!” was a common mantra barked out by my high school baseball coaches. We used to run conditioning laps during the beginning of the season. When shaming us for running “like we had a piano on our backs” didn’t Runningmotivate us sufficiently, our coaches would try to move us with this phrase.

A couple summers ago, I ran my first 5k. I wasn’t being chased. I wasn’t running from anything. Actually I think I was running for something. I wouldn’t say I was running for fun, but maybe for the experience or for my wife because she wanted us to run together. I believe most of my friends who are big runners run for something as opposed to running from something.

In our Gospel, this Easter Sunday, we read the first moments when the disciples discovered that Jesus wasn’t in his tomb. In John’s gospel, Mary of Magdala, when she saw that the tomb was empty and the stone had been rolled away, ran to tell Peter and the beloved disciple. Then Peter and the beloved disciple both ran to the tomb. Mary, Peter and the beloved disciple all ran towards something. Why? What would motivate someone to run to somewhere or someone.

I think it was love. I think they loved Jesus Christ (though imperfectly like us), and they were loved by Jesus Christ (perfectly). I think we run toward the people or things we love.

I don’t know about you, but I want to run towards Jesus Christ. I want to run towards resurrection. I want to run towards ever lasting joy and perfect bliss in the arms of a God who loves me unconditionally. But sometimes, I run away.

This Easter can’t be just an end to Lent. This Easter isn’t just the relief of getting to do the things we gave up or stopping the things we began this Lent. This Easter, I want to continue to run towards Jesus, to the empty tomb, to a soul saved. Where are you running?

LIVE IT:
Running always starts with a decision. Decide now that this Easter is going to be different. Decided now that it won’t be a return to life before Lent, but a new celebration of Joy and Gratitude in the resurrection of Easter.

Pain Tolerance Zero.

April 9th Sunday Readings.

How do you react to pain? I don’t react well. Whether it is a splinter or a stubbed toe or 3e5b23ef9b8d9bbbdfeffd8615959c62an upset stomach, I tend to make a big deal out of any little bit of pain. Honestly, when I experience pain, I am usually at my most selfish. Nothing makes me put myself above all others than being in pain.

Unfortunately my pain-leads-to-selfishness extends to emotional pain as well. When I’m hurt by what someone else has done or said, I usually turn inward and protect myself. How about you? What do you when you are hurt and in pain?

This Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus’ suffering and death. It is difficult to get our minds around the physical pain he endured on the cross. But I think it must have been even more emotionally painful for Jesus. His mission in life was to save the lives of the very people who were crucifying him. Imagine being denied, betrayed, and abandoned by those people you were sent to help.

Yet, when faced with this overwhelming physical and emotional pain, Jesus didn’t turn inward. Instead, while dying on the cross, Jesus continued to forgive, heal, help, inspire, give, and love. When we say, “God loves you,” this is what we mean. When we have done everything to turn away from God, when we layer hurt and insult upon hurt and insult, when we literally try and kill God, Jesus still turns to us in love. In the midst of our rebellion, Jesus comes to save us.

LIVE IT:

Read the gospel before Mass this weekend – Matthew 26:14 – 27:66
. It’s a long one and it is easy to tune it out during Mass.

How many times…

March 5th Sunday Readings.

“How many times do I have to ask you bring your clothes basket upstairs?” I uttered in is-that-not-brilliant-i-think-it-s-brilliant-hv4hw7-clipartfrustration. It finally happened. I realized I was becoming my mother.

Which honestly isn’t a bad thing, my mom is great. As my kids have gotten older, I feel like I understand my parents better and better. It’s like I understand why they said what they said. More than that, I understand something I really didn’t understand as a young person –

Obedience is a form of Love.

In the second reading, Paul outlines this way of thinking about Jesus as the one who, when Adam was disobedient, was totally obedient to the Father. If Adam disobeys God, it is Jesus who redeems through total obedience. If Adam’s disobedience caused a separation between man and God, then Jesus’ obedience repaired that rift. If Adam’s act brought death, Jesus’ obedience brings life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually value obedience. Maybe it is that us Americans seem to enjoy a rebel. Maybe it’s just that I rather like being in control and obeying someone else means that I have to give up that control. Whatever the case, I rarely have thought well of simple obedience.

Yet Jesus shows us that one way to love, and to love well, is to obey the virtuous request of those who love us. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we just do whatever someone else tells us. But when asked, by someone with total care and love for us, obedience is a way to love.

How can I love my spouse? How can I love my parents? How can we love God? Obedience.

Live It:
How do we know what God is telling us? Read scripture. Try reading this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
or if your my kids, take your baskets upstairs. 😉