Radical Dependence

Sunday Readings for July 7th, 2019.

trent-yarnell-a2QvtNSK5UM-unsplash.jpg

As an American, July 4th means fireworks, an abundance of grilled meats, unnecessary amounts of watermelon, and spending every moment of the day outdoors. My family wears an embarrassment of red, white, and blue apparel and we listen to both kinds of music – country and western (until John Phillip Sousa marches accompany fireworks, of course). 

While we say we are toasting our declaration of independence from stodgy ol’ Great Britain, I think secretly we are celebrating a world view that glorifies independence from jaden-hatch-b7BcALkirCc-unsplashanyone and everyone. Before we pretended to memorize the entirety of Hamilton, did any of us really think of the founding fathers on July 4th? Not really. No, our actions on
the 4th of each July, look more like a group of people ignoring the best advice of medical personnel. We eat meat and set off amateur explosives.

In the gospel this Sunday Jesus calls all those who want to join his movement to a radical way of life. I don’t just mean the normal frivolous sacrifices we sometimes associate with comfortable Christianity. I mean that to really follow Jesus means to chose radical dependence. 

To follow Jesus is to sacrifice our independence. 

Jesus sends out his followers to heal and preach with out money, walking staff, or backpack. They will be totally and completely dependent on the people the encounter. Each community that accepts them and provides for them will literally be saving their life. That kind of dependence makes for committed missionaries. 

In another sense the Christian life calls for total dependence upon God. It almost feels silly to type such a simple and obvious statement. Yet as simple and obvious as this statement is to most of us, few of us actually act like it’s true. Few of us depend upon God in any significant way. Only when crisis hits do we really seek to depend upon him. As soon as that crisis is over or we feel comforted, most of us return quickly to our self serving independence. 

If, through some strange set of circumstances, you lost every single dollar and asset you owned, who would be your first phone call? Would it be your financial advisor? Parents? Friends? Your Church community or Priest?

Now, let’s say you fell to your knees in prayer, what would you say to God? Don’t wait! Say that now! If we are going to follow Jesus well, we need to depend upon God like we don’t have anything and need everything. Being a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ takes nothing short of radical dependence. 

Seek Jesus like you’ve got nothing to loose and I guarantee he’ll find you. 

LIVE IT: On July 4th morning when you open your eyes for the first time that day, slip out of bed  and fall to your knees and declare your dependence upon God, to God in prayer. Extra Credit – Tell someone about your prayer (humbly, of course). 

roven-images-HxeBUWUiA1A-unsplash.jpg

Power.

Sunday Mass Readings for June 2nd, 2019.

vanveenjf-1167425-unsplash.jpgI wasn’t worried. I wouldn’t say panicked either, but I did have a 3+ hour flight and with less than 20% battery life, my phone wasn’t going to make it. I searched in my immediate gate area for an open plug, a source of electricity, but finding none, my pace quickened until, mercifully, I saw it – an open plug 2 gates away. I plugged in and power rushed into my device. 

My phone can’t generate power. It needs to pull power from another source to charge its battery. What happens if I don’t plug it in? The phone dies. 

In our readings this Sunday, we read about Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. In both Acts and the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that when he leaves the disciples, he will send them power. That power comes from the Holy Spirit. In the gospel he says, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus desires to give us power. Not just confidence or inner strength (which are good things), but true power. The Holy Spirit is the true source of power. Jesus has committed to us not just stories about his life or a set of teachings, but his very spirit so that we might live powerfully. As Catholics, we aren’t just supposed to follow the rules and be nice people – Jesus promises to give us the very power of God. We are called to act powerfully.

What exactly are we supposed to do with this power? Witness. Jesus leaves us the Holy Spirit so that we can bear witness to the truth about Jesus and about our faith. In Acts of the Apostles Jesus says it like this, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The source of power is the Holy Spirit. The purpose is for us to be witnesses of faith. The early Christians were witnesses during a time of great Christian persecution and often witnessed by dying for their faith. How are we going to witness about our faith? How have we received power from the Holy Spirit?

(Oh, one other thing. Without receiving power from the source, the Holy Spirit, our faith tends to become like phone that hasn’t been plugged in – dead. No connection to the source – no power and thus we can’t do what we were made to do, love and witness.)

LIVE IT: Want to feel powerful? Ask for power for the Holy Spirit in prayer. Whether it is in personal prayer time or at Mass as God to send his Spirit into your life so that you can live powerfully. Then offer God to use that power to help you witness. 

What should I do?

Dec 16th Sunday Readings.

Three groups of people ask John the Baptist the same question in this week’s gospel, gianna-trewavas-740067-unsplash“What should we do?” The gospel doesn’t tell us if they listened to what he said or liked his answer or if they went and did what he directed. 

What we do know is that after he answered, the gospel says people were filled with expectation and wondered if John might be the chosen one of God. John’s teaching was so radical and life changing that they wondered if John could be Christ.
John’s response is beautiful and powerful. He says that while he purifies with water, the Messiah will purify with fire and the spirit. In other words, the work of Christ will bring about even greater transformation, even more complete purification. 

One way to think about this gospel. This gospel is a formula for how to repent and believe in the good news. 

Step 1: Ask “What should I do?” Be direct. Ask the big question. Expect a response.

Step 2: Listen. Actually wait for a response. God works in mysterious ways and on His own timeline. Ask and and keep listening.

Step 3: Look for the messiah who will cleanse you with fire and the Spirit. Receive the Sacraments. Go to confession. Let the love of God burn up the rough, tough, and gross parts of your life and behavior.

Step 4: Preach the good news. Share what you’ve been given. Every gift of God is good enough to be shared in some way.

LIVE IT: Take some time for an honest and earnest prayer only asking one thing, “God, what do you want me to do?”

Born to do it.

November 25th Sunday Readings.

In the early 2000s before we had kids, my wife and I took a trip to visit relatives in New peter-lewicki-411606-unsplashYork City. While there, we saw the hit musical Wicked with most of the original cast. Yes, it was awesome. Idina Menzel wowed the crowed with her vocal range and huge voice. Kristin Chenoweth was a perfect compliment to Menzel and funny in a way that made the audience feel like they were in on the joke. When I watched those two perform, I couldn’t help but think that they were doing what they were born to do. 

When we see someone do something that they both really enjoy and are wildly good at doing, it is inspiring and beautiful. Whether it is watching a MLB infield field a ground ball or a James Beard award wining chef craft a meal or your neighbor cut his grass in a perfect diamond pattern, there is something rewarding about encountering someone doing what they were born to do. 

In the gospel for November 25th, Jesus outright states what he was born to do. Jesus was born to “testify to the truth”. Jesus came to tell us the truth. Jesus mission and purpose was to tell us (and to show us) that God loves us unconditionally and will do anything to get us to return to Him. Jesus exists to tell us that though we are sinners, we are loved and accepted by God. Jesus came to give us the Sacraments, establish the Church, and to create the path by which we all can be saved. 

Jesus was born to testify to the truth. Will we listen?

LIVE IT:
It’s a noisy time of year. Make 1 car trip this week without the radio on. Listen for God’s voice he might just tell you the truth.  

Everyone has a #1.

September 30th Sunday Readings.

stlI married a Twins fan, but I grew up in St. Louis, MO as a rabid Cardinals baseball fan. In 1987 when the Twins played the Cardinals in the World Series, my heart was broken by Kirby Puckett and those upstart Twins with dyYcFhRxtheir dome-field advantage. When I moved to MN I adopted the Twins as my American league team. People ask all the time who I root for when the Cardinals play the Twins. My answer is easy – the Cardinals are my team.

Everybody has a #1. Everyone has something that is most important in their life. As much as we might hope to have a short list of priorities that are all equally important to us, when push comes to shove, one of those things will come out on top. In fact before mid-20th century the word priority was almost never pluralized. We only had a priority, not priorities. Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 7.53.34 AM.png

When we try to hold multiple priorities in our hands we only deceive ourselves and set up a situation where our true priority might get lost in the shuffle. In fact, it happens more often than not that we don’t end up prioritizing the thing that we say or believe we hold most dear.

This is why Jesus Christ tells us that whatever causes us to sin we need to cut completely out of our lives. If anything confuses us about what is most important, we need to completely rid ourselves of it. It is better that we don’t have things that keep us from the most important thing.

What is the most important thing? God. If we truly want what was best for us, then our number one priority should be spending eternity with God, starting right now at this moment. 

How important should this priority be to us? So important we would be willing to loose a body part for it. How dangerous are the things that distract us from God? So dangerous that we should cut them out completely. 

I want to be clear, this isn’t easy. Christianity isn’t easy; it is good. The path is narrow. The way is hard. And it is worth it. God can do it, if we fully rely on Him. 

LIVE IT:
Take out your calendar (digital or paper), and figure out what is the thing that you build the rest of your life around. Work? Kids Activities? Gym time? Or could it be God/Prayer/Church? If someone never met you, but got to examine your calendar, what would they say is your number 1?

Oprah and Purpose

February 4th Sunday Readings.

I don’t hate Oprah. I don’t know her personally and I’m not a disciple of her lifestyle 1*LrhFwqqUEA4Dk4wAerERngempire. The most I’ve encountered Oprah in the last year is when she essentially reported on California mudslides from her backyard and then she told the world she probably wasn’t going to run for president. Maybe I’m not the best kind of person to comment on her but here you go.

Oprah is a tremendous guru. Her ability to lead others, curate a world view, and pass along a particular lifestyle is nearly unmatched. I don’t follow her or know what she says, but even I have had a passing interest in her “favorite things” and her book list because they usually contain something that would make the kind of life I lead more interesting, easy, or fun. Oprah’s purpose is help others lead a comfortable life.

In the gospel this Sunday, we hear Jesus say, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Jesus states that his purpose is to preach. What Jesus is preaching is the good news that God loves us so much he would do anything to bring us back into intimate relationship. Jesus’ ultimate act of preaching was his death on the cross and his resurrection. In his death and resurrection, Jesus doesn’t just tells us that God loves us, Jesus preaches that to die for other is love. Through the resurrection, Jesus teaches that the only way to live is to die. Jesus’ purpose is to preach that if we die to self and follow him, we will be saved from death itself.

Oprah and other gurus teach their followers how to live. Jesus teaches us how to die. Jesus teaches us how to die to self and that only in dying to self can we truly live and truly love. Jesus teaches us how to love and how to receive the perfect love of God. This is an entirely different mission than any other guru.

What is your purpose? Who do you receive your mission from? Everyday we wake up and make the decision between whether we want to live for self or die to self. Everyday we wake up and reset our purpose, our mission. Jesus’ mission wasn’t to help us live a comfortable life, but to help us survive death. That same mission, to preach the good news, Jesus left for the Church – to you and me. Will you make Jesus’ mission your mission? What is your purpose?

LIVE IT:
Are you living on purpose? Take 5 minutes and quick write a short statement of your purpose in life. Don’t over think it. Then examines your life up and against that purpose statement. What needs to change?

 

Mary had it right.

December 24th Sunday Readingsangelico_annunciation

Life is complicated. Whether it is family or work or buying mustard, it seems like our daily decisions get more and more complicated each year. It can feel like the whole world is out to fool us out of our time or treasure. We’re constantly told that if we don’t do this or that, we are going to mess up our lives and miss out on being, owning, or having the best.

In the gospel this Sunday Mary shows us that faith is simple. Having faith is as simple as saying yes to God. When God asks something of us, we just say yes. It really isn’t more complicated than that. When we say no and turn away, we head down the road to unhappiness and death. When we say yes to God, we walk down the path of joy and fulfillment. Simple.

Mary doesn’t promise us it will be easy. In fact, to say yes to God is to love and to love is to sacrifice. Mary’s own life is an example of this truth. Mary watched her own son suffer and die, but her yes changed the world forever.

Mary didn’t just say yes to God with her words to Gabriel that are recorded in our gospel. Mary’s life was a yes. She eagerly strived, in her own way, to say yes to God. Saying yes to God isn’t just something we say; it is something we do.

How do we know what God is asking of us? Read scripture, pray daily, and go to Mass. What do we do when we mess up? Go to confession and give God another shot.

It’s not more complicated than that.

LIVE IT: Between today and Christ, say yes to God in prayer and ask God to show you how you can say yes with your life.