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. 😉

Actually…

February 19th Sunday Readings.

I have a friend who owns the word “actually.”  Well, she doesn’t actually own it, but she actuallyuses it so much she might as well buy it for herself. In conversation, someone will say some inaccuracy and she will respond with, “Well, actually…” and then proceed to correct the person. She has become aware that correcting people by leading with the word “actually” can be obnoxious and tries her best to avoid it. (Especially since her daughter started actually-ing her.)

While she is an “actually” person, others are “supposed to” people. A “suppose to” person is someone who is burdened with what they are “supposed to” do. Sometimes that means that they make sure everyone else knows what they are “supposed to” do. Full disclosure, I can be a “supposed to” person. If I’m honest most of the time I feel the urge to “suppose to” something, it really is just a “supposed to” that I personally find important.

In the gospel Jesus twice says, “You have heard it was said…” and then he goes on to give a “suppose to” statement. It is as if Jesus is saying, “The way things are, we are all supposed to…” Then Jesus explains further and contradicts those “supposed to” statements, but not in the way we might expect. Instead of basically letting us off the hook and telling us that these “supposed to” statements are too hard to do, Jesus tells us we need to take them even further.

If we are supposed to make things equal for everyone, Jesus says we are supposed to sacrifice even if it isn’t fair. If we are supposed to love the people who support us and hate those trying to take us down, Jesus says we are supposed to love our enemies. Jesus isn’t just ratcheting up the commitment here, he is turning “supposed to” on it’s head, and in the process, he is explaining something beautiful about who God is and who we are.

Too often, we make God in our image. We give God our attributes and inclinations. We also can give him our shortcomings, problems, shortsightedness, and pettiness. This gospel reminds us that we are made in God’s image. God is perfect. God is holy. Everyday, we have the choice to go beyond our own “supposed to” to love like God loves.

LIVE IT:
Pray for your enemies. Who do you consider an enemy? Take 2 minutes to pray for them right now.

“Where do babies come from?” The Good Word for Oct 4th.

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

“Daddy, where do babies come from?” Yikes. All parents of young children have been faced with this question. For some of us, it was a scary moment. Others probably handled it better than I did. What is the right answer?

If I had a do-over on that one, I think I would answer like this, “Babies come from LOVE.” Maybe it’s not the whole answer, but it’s not wrong. God is love (1 John 4:8). And my babies came from the love my wife and I have for each other. This kind of love isn’t just affection or even friendship (or romantic attraction), but from a deep, intimate, self-sacrificing love that God gave us for each other.

Out of this kind of love, God gave us the ability to make children. I remember the first time it really struck me that God gifted my wife and I the ability to co-create another human. This little baby my wife is holding has a soul. This human is made in the image and likeness of God, just like Adam and Eve. This is such a powerful and amazing reality. God gives us the ability to co-create a human with a soul – a human that God wants to live with forever in heaven. Wow.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus talks about marriage and children. He does so because both of these pieces of the human experience are so incredibility powerful and important. Marriage is good. Children are good. Both cost us something personally, but that is good too.
The thing is that we live in this broken world. Divorce rates are high, marriages are in trouble, infidelity seems commonplace, spouses barely talk to each other because they are so busy, and even solid marriages struggle with everyday issues.

We’ve all been touched by the pain of broken marriages and hurt spouses. The reason broken relationships and struggling marriages hurt so much is because marriages are so good.

Jesus’ teaching about remarriage and adultery is hard to hear, and for some it is particularly painful. Does it mean Jesus has abandoned some of us?

If this scripture was the only thing Jesus says about marriage and brokenness, then the struggle we have to live up to this high standard for marriage might cause us to be tempted to lose heart. But Jesus said he came, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Jesus promises to be with us always. Jesus promises to struggle alongside us. Jesus doesn’t just promise us, he shows his unconditional love for us when he dies on the cross.

When does God love? When we need it the most. God doesn’t just love us when we are doing our best, but God loves us when are far short of perfect.

So when your marriage is a source of life and joy, thank God! When everything falls apart and you are hurt and broken and the very foundation of your life seems over, seek Jesus Christ. If you feel like the Church or Jesus is telling you “stay away” because of your sin, they are not! God calls all of us sinners close to him.

Live It:
Thank God for love. Whether that is children, spouse, friendship or community offer up a prayer of thanks for the love in your life.

PS – Have you heard any of the homilies from HNOJ’s homily series “God: Who does he think he is?” Find them here.

The Good Word for May 10th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

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On Cinco de Mayo, I made a Tres Leche cake for my family. Tres Leche is a cake soaked in “3 milks.” It is super sweet and so good. One of my daughters couldn’t stop gushing about it. Finally she just said, “I love this cake.”

We use the word “love” to describe our appreciation for a number of different things. I love cake. I love my friends. I love my wife. All three statements mean different things. In other languages, they have different words that mean different things, but all of which get translated to love.

The great Christian author C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves in which he describes four distinct ways we use the word Love.

The first love is Affection. This is the love that says, “I really like and appreciate this person.” When my kids do something that makes me proud, I love them in this way. This love is emotional and bubbles up within us as a response to the situation at hand.

The second love is Friendship. This is the love that says, “I like this person because we get along and share similar interests or goals.” We often share friendship with people just because of proximity. Being with someone can bring about friendship. A good example is the friendships you have at work or school, but don’t see those same people socially.

The third love is Eros. This is the love Continue reading

The Good Word for April 26th

For the complete Sunday readings click here. 1985 Honda Accord SE-i Sedan

Remember your first car? When I turned 16 my parents handed down to me a 1982, 5 speed, 4 cylinder, brown Honda Accord. It wasn’t exactly a beater, but it wasn’t exactly a hotrod either. As much as it wasn’t the coolest or nicest car in the student parking lot, I loved that car.

My friends and I named it “The Beast,” mostly because it wasn’t a beast at all. This car was great because it got me from point A to point B every time. Until, of course, it didn’t and stranded me an hour from home with my high school crush in the front seat. That car was good to me until the very end.

I wouldn’t let anyone else drive it or wash it or even put gas in it (they could pay for gas, of course) because this car was mine and I wanted to take the absolute best care of it.

In our Gospel this weekend we hear about a good shepherd who cares for his flock. But we also hear about a “hired man,” who runs at the first sign of danger. The good shepherd cares for his sheep because he is close to them and they are his. The sheep literally belong to him. The hired man is only in it for the money and when his life is in danger it isn’t worth it.

Jesus is the good shepherd; he says so. He explains that he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, because they are his flock. They know him well. They recognize his voice. They are close to him and he is close to them.

I loved my car, not because of anything special it did, but because it was mine. My car didn’t earn my affection. The same for the sheep – they don’t do anything to earn the shepherd’s love and care. No, the shepherd loves them because they are his. The shepherd loves them because of “who” the shepherd is not “how” the sheep are.

We can’t earn God’s love for us. None of us deserve the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And every single one of us belong to Jesus the Good Shepherd.

In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we are God’s beloved children. God delights in us and cares for us because we belong to him. When we were baptized we were baptized to become sons and daughters of God. God loves us because we are his children. God loves us because he is good.

Live It:
What do you care about? Make whatever you take great care in doing into a prayer. If you are extra careful at doing the dishes, make each dish washed a prayer. If you are an excellent cook, say a prayer for each ingredient or step of a recipe. If you are super intense tooth brusher, say a few Hail Marys while you brush. While you do this, remember that God took infinitely more care in creating and loving you.

The Good Word for Sunday Sept 28

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

the-princess-bride_image

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Princess Bride. The movie is an old-fashioned fairytale told by a grandfather to his sick grandson. In the story a young woman named Buttercup, who is engaged to a prince, is kidnapped to start a war. Her childhood love, Westley, returns, from a life as a pirate king, to save her and prevent a war. If you haven’t seen it, seriously, watch it tonight – great for the whole family.

At the beginning of the film Buttercup asks Westley to serve her in a variety, and often unnecessary, ways. Westley’s response is always, “As you wish.” He is without question, obedient to her request. This total obedience and complete surrender of will eventually wins the heart of Buttercup and she falls in love with Westley.

We don’t often think of it, but obedience is an act of love.

To do what is asked is like saying, “Your desire is more important than mine.” To be obedient takes a great deal of trust, sacrifice, and love. When Westley said, “As you wish.” He was really saying, “I love you.” (Watch this video to see the phrase in action.)

There has been no greater act of obedience and of love, then Jesus Christ giving his life on the cross. Jesus did it out of love for God the Father and for us. Jesus was obedient even though he asked for the cup to pass. Our second reading explains this so well when it says, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2).

Every Mass and every time we pray the Our Father, we pray the words, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We are literally praying for God’s will to be done not ours. We are actually saying to God, “As you wish.”

Live it:
Take a Post-It note and write the phrase, “God – As You wish.” And stick it on your bathroom mirror. Every time you see it, pray the phrase and ask God to give you the grace to live it out.