Doesn’t apply to me

With a lot more time at home during this pandemic, my family has discovered or maybe developed some new habits. One of my kids always (I really mean always) leaves her breakfast dishes on the dinning room table. The dishes sit there all day. Often we have to ask her to clear them before dinner time. This drives my wife crazy, which, in turn, drives me crazy. 

I tried to remedy this situation by making a general announcement and setting an expectation for the entire family. “All dishes should be cleared within 30 minutes of the completion of a meal with water glasses being the exception.” To which the serial offender turned to her sister and said, “That means you!”

The kid who created the need for a new rule and who needed to receive the direction didn’t know it was her who was the problem. How often is it that those who cause the issue don’t think the new rule is for them?

This weeks gospel is a prime example of this. Jesus tells a parable that paints the chief priests and elders as the villains and yet when Jesus asks what the evil tenants’ punishment should be, the chief priests and elders pronounce a harsh and merciless judgement. They didn’t know the story was about them! Idiots.

Oh, also, the parable is about us.

At least, it’s about me. Of course, the parable is about Israel and how when God wanted to bear much fruit, those in charge rejected the prophets and eventually Jesus. Yes. But the parable is also about every single time that God wanted to harvest a beautiful bounty in our lives and we failed to give God his due. This story is about every time we reject the prophets in our own lives and are selfish. This story is about when we deny Jesus Christ and choose our own path. When we sin we throw Jesus out of our vineyard and our sin brings about the cross. 

Jesus tells this parable as an invitation to return to God, to repent, to confess our sins and give God what belongs to God. What do we owe God? Everything. What do we get from God in the first place? Everything. The only thing God doesn’t give us is our sin. So we need to give him that too. 

Just as the vineyard owner is ostentatiously merciful, giving the tenants chance after chance to repent and give over the fruit of the harvest, God gives us chance after chance to respond to him with love and surrender. Will you give God what you owe him? 

Aren’t convinced that this parable is about you? Neither were the chief priests or elders.

LIVE IT: You probably live a fruitful life. You have produced many things, experiences, maybe even people. Have you given them to God? Make a list of everything you have produced in the last 7 days – work, home, hobbies, children, etc. Take some time over the next 3 days to offer those things over to God. One by one offer them up in prayer to God. 

Sunday Readings for Oct 4th, 2020.

Words and Actions

When I was about 11 years old, I asked my parents if there were any ways I could make some money around the house. I wasn’t a big chores kid when I wasn’t getting paid, but a couple greenbacks changed everything. My dad hired me to wash the family car. I put soap and water in a bucket, grabbed some towels, and pulled the hose around to the driveway. 

After washing and rinsing the entire car, I got my dad to inspect. I was looking forward to his congratulations on a job well done and a handful of cash. Instead, he simply said, “You didn’t wash the car.” I ended up getting really upset. I did wash the car. I covered the thing in soapy water and rinsed it off with the hose. How could he say I didn’t wash it? Did he not see me out here?

He showed me on the front where there was still a bunch of dried, stuck-on bugs. He showed me where there was grime in the wheel wells. He pointed out dirt around the windshield wipers. I may have done all the actions of washing a car, but the outcome was a car that still needed to be cleaned. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells the story of a father and two sons. The father asks the first son to go work in the vineyard. This son says that he will not, but he changes his mind and eventually goes and works. The second son says he will go work, but never does. Then Jesus asks his audience which of these sons did the father’s will.  

God asks us every moment of everyday if we will do his will. That we exist at all, is an invitation to answer the question: what are you going to do with your life? Then the fact that we have received Sacraments where we promised, before God and the Church, that we would do God’s will, further invites us to answer the question: what are we doing with this short, single life we’ve been given?

We can say yes with our words, but still stay no with our lives. We can say all the right things, call ourselves Christian, but if we aren’t living it, are we disciples of Jesus? 

I was convicted reading this gospel this week. I feel like I say yes often with my words and fail to follow through on those words. It’s like promising to wash the car, but the final product isn’t a clean car. For these failures, I go to confession. I lean into the mercy of God. 

The reality is that we’ll never be perfect in both our actions and words. The more we rely on God to lead us, the more we will be able to do God’s will. The more we seek to make our actions match our words, the more we are going to need to depend on God.

LIVE IT: Read these short (really it is brief) couple of paragraphs from the Catechism. You will find what are called the Precepts of the Church. These Precepts are the very basic things we must do as Catholics. If you are looking for the 5 ways to make your actions meet your words in your Catholic faith, these are the absolute basics. Check out the Precepts here. 

Sunday Readings for September 27, 2020.

Judgemental

I made fajitas the other night and they were delicious. Marinated, grilled skirt steak. Cast iron peppers and onions. Tortillas warmed on the grill. Fresh Pico de Gallo and Guacamole to top things off. Shared on a warm night with a slight breeze on a table set up in the shade of a tree in our beautiful backyard. It was nearly perfect. 

To name the food and atmosphere and company as enjoyable and good is to make a judgement. I made a judgement as to whether the food was delicious or not. I judged the weather and the shade and the table we ate on. I judged the company. I made judgements about the pleasurable aspects of my evening and judged it to be good. 

We live in a time when being judgmental has been seen as negative. I have worked on trying to be less judgmental. But the gospel this Sunday challenged this negative view of judgement. I am convinced that judging things is actually a good and necessary thing. We should be judgmental. Let me explain. 

Judging things keeps us safe. In the gospel, Jesus tells a parable of the farmer who plants good wheat, but an enemy sows weeds in the same field and they both grow up together. The weed that Jesus is describing is called darnel. When it is young, it looks just like wheat. It is difficult to distinguish the two. As it grows it wraps its roots around other plants. To pull up darnel would be to pull up other crops.

Also, it’s deadly poisonous. The farmer and his servants have to judge the difference between darnel and wheat if they don’t want to be poisoned. If we want to live, we have to make judgements between what is harmful to us and what is good for us. 

Only when we judge do we appreciate. We aren’t grateful for the wheat, the good things, in our lives if we don’t judge them as good. How do we know that Fajitas are good or bad? We judge them. We don’t know that something is Beautiful, Good, or True unless we make an assessment. 

While the gospel may give us good reason to judge, it also comes with clear warning about judgement. We can judge behaviors, material goods, or beliefs, but that doesn’t mean we should judge people. In the gospel, the harvester and the farmer judge the weeds from the wheat, but the farmer tells the slaves not to pull the weeds until harvest time.

To that end, it’s not our job to judge people. It isn’t the right time. God waits to judge people until their deaths and the end of time because he wants to give each of us every single opportunity to change. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate the time. I need it. 

Whenever we judge people we do it on way too little information. We are poor judges of the human heart because we just can’t know all the information we would need to make a sound judgement.

Also, we shouldn’t judge people because we often base that judgement off of the wrong or incomplete information. It is like judging whether the fajitas are good based on the shape of the pasture where the cow who became our meal grazed in. Not enough and wrong information to make a judgement. 

We should be judgmental. We judge to avoid evil and to choose good. How?

The judge of judgement should always be love. 

If we judge with anything other than love as our guiding principle, we will fail to judge well. God’s judgement and God’s love aren’t opposing forces, but in fact they work for the same end – our intimate and ultimate union with God forever. 

Live It: Next time you encounter someone, whether you know them well or not, use your power of judgement to ask this question, “What can I do to love this person well right now?”

Not Even the Bare Minimum.

Readings for Sunday Oct. 6th, 2019.

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I sleep pretty well. But every once in a while, when my head will hit the pillow and I am just about to drift off, my brain brings up some huge mistake from my past and I am wide awake again with worthless, unnecessary worry. No sleep for me.

One of those burdensome worries comes from my time in grad school over ten years ago. I had an experiential learning assignment at an elder care facility. My final assignment was to gather a list of potential actives and field trip opportunities for the residents. I started the process but never finished. I told my field supervisor that if he signed my form, I would complete the assignment after the semester was over. I never did. 

Oh man, even writing about this makes my skin crawl. Most of us aren’t the kind of people who dodge assignments or fail to complete at least what we are told. 

In the gospel Jesus gives an example of real faith is. servants who do the bare minimum, and just do what was commanded do get special rewards or extra thanks. No they did was they were supposed to and that is good, but it isn’t extraordinary. 

The reality is when it comes to our faith lives, we rarely even accomplish the bare minimum. When it comes to following Jesus, we so infrequently do even the simple things Jesus asks of us. Most of the times we aren’t even unprofitable servants, we a servants who fall short of the bare minimum. And that is why we need mercy. We have a God who is love and who loves us so much that even when we fail to do only what was commanded of us, Jesus completes the rest, forgives us, and still invites us to dine with him. Will you receive God’s mercy?

Live it: Go to confession. I know, this is the “Live it:” like, at least 4 times a year. That’s how important God’s mercy is. So just go. What is keeping you from God’s mercy?